Saturday, October 02, 2010

Dinner and a Ride

I've been hanging out for the first of the new season's asparagus. Usually I would make an asparagus risotto, but this year I saw a recipe in the Sunday Star Times I just had to try. It was amazing, if I do say so myself, so here it is:

Spaghetti with Asparagus Pesto and Smoked Chicken
2 bunches asparagus, woody ends trimmed
125g (1/2 cup) low fat ricotta
45g unsalted raw cashews
50g baby spinach leaves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1t finely grated lemon rind
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to season
2T fresh lemon juice
250g dried spaghetti pasta
A little olive oil
175g smoked chicken breast, skin removed, shredded

Cook the asparagus in a large saucepan of boiling water for 1-2 minutes or until bright green, tender and crisp. Rinse under cold, running water. Drain. Cut half the asparagus into 3cm pieces and reserve.

Process the remaining asparagus, ricotta, cashews, spinach, garlic, lemon rind and half the basil in a food processor until smooth. Season with pepper and stir in half the lemon juice.

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling water until al dente. Drain and return to the pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Add the asparagus pesto, chicken, reserved asparagus, remaining lemon juice and basil to the pasta. Toss until well combined. Divide among serving bowls.

I used a little more smoked chicken (periperi, because I didn't have ordinary) than the recipe called for and forgot the olive oil. The lemon really made the dish and I added plenty of cracked pepper and a scattering of salt. This stretched to three large servings.

I had a great ride today. It was a stunning morning and therefore no surprise when we ended up riding the Makara loop. Dee decided to ride from the Johnsonville end, which is my less preferred direction. However it did give us the opportunity to ride up Old Porirua Rd, one of the more heinous climbs in Wellington. It maxes out at an 18% gradient and seems to go on forever.

I had a little trouble at the start when my gears decided to skip at the steep start of the climb, but eventually got to the top. I rode in the second of the three groups and only a small handful of us went with the Old Porirua Rd option, most going up Ngaio Gorge. I was the last of those brave enough to take the hard option.

In general I felt my hill legs weren't quite there today. I climbed easily enough but for some reason I was slow. I'm not necessarily complaining about that fact, it just puzzles me. I don't know what I can do to put on more pace and it feels bizarre to have other riders go flying past me. I tried to remember Dusty's advice that being slow means being able to enjoy being out there longer, and that helped!

After Old Porirua Rd it was on to the interminable rollers up to Johnsonville, with the always surprisingly long Cortina Rd at the end. We didn't stop for long at the top and it was nice to actually be able to overtake a few riders on the descent into Takarau Gorge. My downhill skills at least seem to have improved.

It rained here extremely heavily all day on Thursday and the whole area was still a watershed. In several places on the descent the road had been transformed into a shallow stream, and I wasn't quite sure whether it was possible to aquaplane on a road bike or not so I took it easy on those stretches. There were a lot of slips on the side of the road and there was gravel everywhere as a result. I've never seen so much water in the stream through the gorge either.

I had only intermittent company through the valley but was in a good mood and quite happy to be on my own. I was sitting on an ok pace but was just fractionally slower than the main pack. I was feeling good though and was actually happy to be at the bottom of the climb back up to the top of Makara Hill.

It was at about this point that my hill climbing legs started to wake up. In contrast to the last time I went this way (shortly before my surgery), when I'd felt weak and queasy, this time I cruised up the hill comfortably, overtaking three other riders on the way up.

From there it was down into Karori, up and over into Aro Valley, and back through the city to Parade. If someone had suggested a little ride around the Bays to finish I might have said yes.

Given that I have an 80k race in Featherston tomorrow all of the above is very encouraging. I will check in tomorrow to let people know how it goes. The weather is again looking good so cross fingers for a result.

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