I first visited Lake Austin Spa as a regular paying guest about 15 years ago. My marriage had just ended and I had two very young children; as a birthday present my parents offered to send me on a trip by myself for a week. Around that time, my editors at both Cooking Light and Eating Well magazines had given cooking demos at the Spa, and both told me how peaceful and wonderful it was. This Yankee girl kissed her kids goodbye and headed south.
That week, I took my first yoga and meditation classes. I learned to breathe, to cry, and to prepare myself for the challenges of divorce and single parenting that lay ahead. The compassionate and knowledgeable instructors and tranquil setting helped me find calm strength.
My life is– happily!– in a much better place than it was before that first visit. But like so many of us, I work long, long hours and never quite manage to cross off all the items on my to-do list. And like everyone, I have family and friends– and all the pleasure, time obligations, and occasional heartbreak that comes along with that. And so it is that all these many years later, I continue to treasure these wonderfully restorative days of yoga, hikes, and simple quiet time.
There are many reasons the Spa is consistently awarded top ratings. Any review you read is likely to mention the outstanding food. Chef Terry Conlan infuses healthful, low calorie food with enormous flavor. His cookbook, FRESH: Healthy Cooking and Living from Lake Austin Spa Resort (nominated for a prestigious International Association of Culinary Professionals award) lets you create his wildly flavorful, highly satisfying dishes at home. Best of all, Terry is also a really nice guy (even his staff seems to think so). I wrote this piece about Terry– which includes some of his recipes– for Relish Magazine a couple of years ago.
Okay, back to last week and my visit there. I demonstrated three recipes for my class called “Simple, Savory Salmon” using gorgeous, deeply colored wild coho salmon. The photos below give you a sneak preview of two of the recipes I taught, which will appear in an upcoming issue of Self magazine. (I will provide a link to the recipes once they are published.)
My husband, David Bonom, taught the next day. His class was on quick soups, and even I was astounded that he made five soups in less than two hours. But speed alone isn’t impressive: the fact that they were so outrageously, soul-satisfyingly delicious is.
I have to admit to a white lie, though. After his demo, folks in the audience asked me which was my favorite. I demurred, saying that was a bit like asking me which was my favorite child. Not so. The recipes for my top two, Escarole, Bean and Sausage Soup and Hearty Minestrone are below.
Okay, I really do have a sweet life. Not only do I get to go to one of the best spas in the country every year, but I get to go with my husband– who is a great chef.
Here we are together in a video we taped for the Spa right after his class.
Here are photos of the dishes I made for the salmon class…
And here are the recipes for David’s soups.
Escarole, Bean, and Sausage Soup with Parmesan Cheese
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces sweet Italian turkey sausage, removed from the casing
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh fennel
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups low sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups chopped escarole
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the sausage, onion, fennel, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 minutes. Pour in the broth and beans, cover and bring to a boil; cook 5 minutes. Stir in the escarole and cook until wilted and tender, 8-10 minutes. Divide among 4 bowls and top each with 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese.
Makes 4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled acorn squash
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup diced yellow squash
3/4 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup chopped fresh fennel
6 cups low sodium vegetable broth (such as Pacific)
1/4 cup tomato paste
5 cups chopped Swiss chard
1/2 cup uncooked tubettini or ditalini pasta
1 (15.5-ounce) can no cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese
1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, basil, and oregano; sauté until starting to soften, 2-3 minutes. Add the squash, zucchini, squash, carrots, and fennel; cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add the broth and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender.
2. Stir in the chard and tubettini; simmer until the pasta is tender, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the beans and cook until hot, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper. Divide among 6 bowls and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon cheese.
Makes 6 servings