A few days ago, I sat on our couch in stretchy leggings, nursing a mug of my favorite chai and watching Adi figure out what hands are. She brought them really close to her face and just stared, turning them slowly, trying to figure out whether they were attached to something, or someone, and what they might be there for. And I realized, as I watched her patiently, painstakingly, unrelentingly trying to figure out her limbs, that this first chapter of parenthood might already be behind me.
I’ve got so many photos and videos of Adi cooing and laughing and doing sweet, adorable, hilarious things that my icloud won’t sync. Among those photos are a few hastily snapped shots of the salads we’ve been eating for dinner, and the (very simple) stews I’ve been making on the weekends to feed us at work. My real camera is lurking neglected in some corner of our house, patiently waiting for our kitchen to be not 90% done, not 97% done, but actually, 100% done. (Did I mention we’re redoing our kitchen? This seemed like the ideal time, because, you know, we don’t have much else going on. We’re waiting for it to be done, too, but not so patiently.)
Since the above pics were taken, we got a fresh coat of paint, cabinet hardware, and a few more finishing details in place. I tell myself that once the granite is installed and the moving boxes are gone, I’ll start blogging in earnest again, with the same frequency as before Adi was here. But that’s probably not realistic. Life is busier now. There’s less time, which means fewer fussy recipes, and fewer pictures. The whole enterprise of eating feels different these days; I’m proud if I manage to bake off a loaf of (no-knead) bread in time for Sunday breakfast. When dinner isn’t one of my increasingly-becoming-my-specialty salads, it’s a bag of soup or beans from the freezer. As I slowly but surely draw down my stash of frozen meals, I wonder when I’ll have a chance to replenish it.
So what does this mean? If I had to guess, I’d bet on more posts about fast lunches and dinners, and fewer tales of day-long projects. Hopefully that’s good news; everyone is busy, and everyone could use some inspiration when it comes to good, healthy, non-fussy meal options.
So here’s one to start: plenty of kale, pounded soft. Diced cucumbers. A can of chickpeas. Feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, fresh croutons. That, and a couple clementines, was our dinner last Monday. And even though the weather outside was a biting, blustery, rather unbearable 5 degrees, we managed to eat salad for dinner – and feel full and satisfied and not sad that we didn’t eat soup. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
I start the croutons on the stove, then transfer them to the oven so they don’t char too much. I tear up the kale and dice the cucumbers while the croutons toast, so everything is ready at about the same time. As for the pomegranates, I tend to prep two at once, then stow the seeds in a container in the fridge for a la minute use. You can also buy the seeds ready to go at TJs and other grocery stores.
If you don’t have pomegranate seeds in the house, don’t despair. One night last week, I added in some grapefruit segments. Chickpeas became cooked cannellini beans from the freezer, and I added some slivered radish for crunch. The template is a big pile of kale, a simple vinaigrette, and enough croutons that dinner doesn’t feel overly virtuous. Everything else is customizable. It’s a winner, even in winter, and a staple once the chill starts to thaw.
Big Kale Salad with Pomegranates and Feta
1 big bunch Tuscan kale, leaves removed from ribs and torn into large pieces
2 thick slices of bread, cubed or torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 Persian (small, crunchy) cucumbers, diced
Seeds from half a pomegranate
Slice of a red onion, diced
8 oz. chickpeas (half a can), rinsed
salt and pepper
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Put the kale in a large mixing bowl and massage the leaves lightly with your hands, to break up the fibrous texture and soften them.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan (I like cast iron) over medium heat. Add bread cubes and a light sprinkle of salt, and cook 2-3 minutes, until crisped on the bottom side. Turn croutons, then transfer to the oven for 8-10 minutes while you assemble the rest of the salad.
In a small bowl, combine remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar. Add a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper; whisk to combine.
Add remaining salad ingredients to the bowl with the kale. Drizzle dressing over salad, and toss to combine. Remove the croutons from the oven (careful – they’re hot!) and add them to the salad. Toss to combine, and serve.