Brighten up Your New Year

On New Year’s Eve it poured without ceasing. It was relentless. There was no way to place so much as a nose out the door without soaking yourself to your innermost layer of intimate garments. The ten day forecast said: “Get used to disappointment,” and “P.S. Adversity builds character.”

I wanted clear skies. I wanted to end the year, begin the year, and (this is crucial) continue throughout the year, with clear skies. I also wanted a clear counter. What was all this detritus? Why were there earrings, and my husband’s family menorah that I broke, spread all over the place? Actually the kids broke it; definitely the kids. I wanted better weather, an orderly, obedient household, and a renewed fervor for life. But no pressure.

I have little compulsion to ring in the New Year with razzle or dazzle, novelty or noise. I wasn’t going to go dancing, kiss a stranger, and drink too much. I did all that in 1996 and I’m still recovering. But I did want to dream up a meal of such surpassing scrumptiousness that the rain would cease to matter as I transcended external reality. I believe in the restorative power of the right meal. Again, no pressure.

Salad for Dinner by Jeanne Kelley, has yielded several recipes for my cooking classes at Bayview School of Cooking. I regarded the photo on the cover and felt inspired to make a salad…not at all like it.

Everyone knows I can’t follow a recipe. Not that I am unable, but that it just isn’t where the spirit leads me. I had a jar of marinated, grilled artichoke hearts, and thought they would be satisfying in a salad, along with some roasted vegetables. Because I had leftover basil, pumpkin seeds, and olives, those seemed to fit as well. So you see, by “the spirit,” I mean my fridge.

This salad was colorful, flavorful and healthy. It was also crowd-pleasing (crowd=one husband) and had my oldest been home instead of spending time with younger, funner people, I could easily have made a vegan portion for her. The other daughter was gone too, also because she didn’t want to spend the last night of the year journaling, reading, and falling asleep 30 minutes into a movie. I would make this again, (if I ever made something the same way twice) but would sprinkle in some chili flakes or pepperoncini to give it more…fervor.

I woke up to the new decade and…clear skies! I burst from the house screaming with purpose (sort of). That’s the power of the right meal, Eaters. Resolve to enjoy more of them in 2020.

“Clear Skies” Flexitarian Salad

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 golden beets, cut into approximately 2-inch long chunks
1 can chick peas
a handful of basil leaves (depending on how intense you want that flavor to be)
One head butter – or other favorite – lettuce
3 boiled eggs, peppered
1 small sweet bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup pepperoncinis and/or olives
Parmesan, shaved
4 rounds pepperoni, slivered (optional)
purple carrot (optional)

Olive oil
flaky salt
cracked pepper
red wine vinegar
chili flakes

Spread cauliflower and beets on a rimmed sheet pan and lightly coat with oil and a sprinkling of salt. Roast for about 15 minutes, then add the drained can of chick peas and roast perhaps 10 minutes more until char is to your liking. Allow to cool.

Toss lettuce in oil and vinegar – the amount depends on your taste, but begin with a light touch. Sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper. You can add some of the remaining ingredients and give another toss, then arrange the rest on top. If you add them all at once everything tends to drop to the bottom. Plus you might be styling this salad to send a picture to a friend to show them how healthfully you are starting your new year. But again, no pressure.

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