sweet, savory and looking back in blue December 22, 2011
Five years ago, I was bracing myself for the first holidays without mom by giving myself a break and visiting a friend in NYC for a week. It had been a whirlwind that fall and I was breathless – taking care of her affairs, navigating family matters, treading lightly in my own mind. Getting away was what I needed. To have my feet off the ground. To feel funny and vivacious. To be myself. We ate ourselves silly. Had too many cocktails at Brooklyn Social. Walked a lot. Talked a lot. New York around the holidays is a magical place and it was the remedy for my heaviness. I felt light for the first time in months.
Five years later, it’s been another whirlwind year for a lot of reasons. A new home, nesting, a new pup – those things in an of itself are a lot. They’ve been a huge part of my life but the over-riding theme these 12 months as been work. It’s a blessing. I’m so lucky to get to do something that I love – I know I say that a lot. Even when its tough, it’s wonderful. The problem is my own. I feel like I’ve missed out on something this year. It’s a loss of sorts. That something is me. I look back on this year and the glass is 9/10ths full – amazing travel, once in a lifetime experiences, working with wonderful people, being more inspired more often than not.
I look around at a house that’s almost furnished, a blossoming career, our little family that I feel like I might work too hard at because I’m afraid I’m not good at it and there’s something I don’t see. I don’t see myself these days. It’s like those bottles of sand you make as arts-n-crafts projects – all the colored layers. Each year is a layer being poured on top of another one. It’s damn pretty…but it’s missing something. I’m the skinny white layer (or not so skinny these days) between rose-colored and blue. I wouldn’t take away from any of it. I just want to add to it.
I want to feel light again.
Transparency is hard here for me these days. The blog is more visible and I’ve become less so. Not so many photos of myself. Shying away from attention. Shying away from situations where I don’t feel comfortable because, well, I feel I’ve let myself go. Let myself down. It’s hard to admit that you’ve lost yourself a bit. Maybe it’s a reflection on you as a person – what do you mean I can’t do it all by myself!? I have everything I want except my feeling of self – time to do the things I want to do, the motivation to do them, pride in who I am and what my body and mind are capable of. I don’t normally do the resolution thing but 2012 is my year to enrich myself. Stop making excuses. Make the time for myself. Be okay if other things aren’t perfect. Skip the low-hanging fruit and strive for things that have been my dream for years. Prioritize. Bypass the small shit and nudge out the drama. The other stuff will sort itself out.
I want to write a cookbook. Travel to Vietnam – and travel more in general. Run another half marathon. It’s been too long since I’ve felt like my feet were off the ground. The lightness of being.
Two recipes from holidays spent away from home have been rattling around in my head for weeks – maybe it’s nostalgia rearing its head. Two years ago, Mike and I went to Charleston for Thanksgiving. When I think of spending time with Helene, I think of the kale salad recipe we deduced from the Earth Fare display case. I’ve been making a variation of that salad ever since then – we had to figure out the recipe because we were easily eating $20 a day worth of this salad. This is yet another kale salad on a food blog but trust me…it’s one of my favorite versions ever. A little balsamic, a teensy bit of mustard, the salt from the goat cheese and the colorful pop of the pomegranate. If there’s ever been a salad that looks like the holidays, it’s this one.
On that trip to New York, on the last night of my trip, nervously awaiting returning to God knows what here in Atlanta…my dearest friend Michael and I went to Frankie’s 457 and had just the most amazing meal. No less than five years later, I remember the shaved fennel salad and this dessert. The most luscious, wine poached prunes served on a slather of Mascarpone cheese. It was heavenly, comforting, decadent and simple all at the same time – a warm water bottle resting on my neck. Recreating it at home, the smells of the poaching liquid filled the house and was so cozy and relaxing. It’s the easiest dessert in the world. Trust me, your guests are going think you’re nuts for serving them prunes but placed upon a nest of soft Mascarpone with a drizzle of the warm poaching syrup, they’ll get it immediately.
Raw Kale Salad with Balsamic & Pomegranate – serves 6
- 1 large bunch (about 1 pound) kale – tender leaves cut away from the stems & the tough stems discarded
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp. good quality balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- airils from 1/2 pomegranate, cleaned and rinsed
- 1/4 cup grated firm goat’s milk cheese – I used Cypress Grove’s Midnight Moon
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar and evoo. Salt and pepper to taste and pour over the raw kale, which should be in a large mixing bowl so you can get your hands in there. Massage the dressing into the kale for 1-2 minutes until it starts to wilt. Add in the toasted pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and mix again to combine. Grate the 1/4 cup goat cheese into the bowl and toss again quickly to combine. Serve immediately.
Zinfandel Poached Prunes with Mascarpone – recipe adapted from a dish at Frankie’s Spuntino – serves 6-8
- 1 pound pitted prunes (about 40)
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 cups good quality Zinfandel – the rest of the bottle should be poured in glasses & enjoyed while cooking
- 1 tbsp. St. Germain liquor – it adds a slight floral component to the dish thats a nice balance to the spice
- 2 8-ounce containers Mascarpone
- Combine sugar, cinnamon and wine in a pot over medium-high heat. When mixture boils, reduce to simmer, drizzle in St. Germain and add the prunes. Cook 45 minutes, until liquid has turned to syrup. Remove from heat, and rest at least 15 minutes. Dollop some Mascarpone on each plate – it helps to catch the liquid if you make a well with the cheese - and top with 4-6 prunes. Drizzle with some of the warm remaining. Serve immediately. The poaches prunes can also be made ahead of time and the syrupy liquid reheated.