Last night, due North of 11 pm, I heard a strange dragging-scraping-scuffling, coming from Henry's room. Henry is my earliest bird, often up before six, so to hear him rustling so late is an odd thing. Maybe a dream? Bathroom run? Maybe a midnight cleaning frenzy?
(It has happened. Anyway, a mom can dream, too.)
I was in bed myself, and tired, and so let it rest awhile.
(Okay, full disclosure: I was both-eyes-glued to The BFG, alternately devouring Sophie's adventures in Giant Land, and wondering how in heavens I'd made it four decades without crossing paths with this completely excellent gobblefunk-filled gem.)
((And!! Check this out! Enter an address, hit translate, begin hysterics. Some sites work better than others. This one's a zinger.))
Fifteen minutes later, I crept down the hall, expecting to find him puppy-snug and breathing slow. Only as soon as I rounded the corner, I realized the lights were not only not off, but instead, blazing double-time.
Turns out the rumblings were a small civil engineering project, undertaken to jury-rig a reading lamp. Toys were re-located, chairs dragged bed-side, clip-lamps unplugged and re-plugged, all the better to see the print by. He was a quarter-inch from the end of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I'm sure you understand.
I'd handed him a copy at 8:30, the same evening.
He turned the last page at half-past midnight.
He'd read The Twits, earlier that day.
It's going to be a good winter.
Even though my eyes all day have felt feel like some awkward cat tongue-sandpaper hybrid; and even though Zoë was home with the sniffles, second time in seven days; and even though the laundry's five four (double) loads from complete, I feel certain about this.
After all, there are turkey legs burbling on the stove, stock-bound. On the counter, a grocery list with the words brussels sprouts. A page on my desk headered "Mile High Chocolate Pie". Friends coming, Thursday, to feast.
There's a nutcracker that is not "for decoration only". Golden-yolked local eggs, still. One last hurrah from our oak leaf hydrangea. A (fingers-crossed) final leg check-up, tomorrow. The exact right number of stitches on my needles.
This, despite my terrible habit of not counting after increase rows; despite clocking no fewer than five such rows; despite accruing thereby some 180ish* stitches. I'm forever increasing and decreasing at odd moments, to make up for my extra/absent stitches.
*Any knitter will tell you -ish isn't in the lexicon.
Except today, when time came to separate the sleeves, a.k.a. when my moment of reckoning arrived? I had exactly 186 stitches. Wildly, improbably, the proper number.
This is akin to, oh, measuring flour with a backhoe, only to find after the fact you've shoveled precisely the 276 grams the recipe called for. I'm telling you, this bodes well.
Also: It snowed last night. Again. Just a generous inch, not exactly a blizzard, but still. Third time this year, and it's not even December. Snow for Christmas always seems magical. Snow for Thanksgiving? Well, that's just swishwifflingly gloriumptious.
Also: this salad.
Oh, this salad, this scrumpdiddlyumptious salad. It's what will see me through to April. If there is one subject on which I sympathize with the sunny-weather folk, it is salads. I am grateful for any greens at all, come February, but two-thousand-mile-away, ten-day-old leaves can't hold a candle to the nearby plump vital stuff. I'll miss it.
But this will so tide me over.
I call it a salad. Some might argue side. I don't much care, beyond the eating. It begins with a base of just-wilted kale, ribboned and quickly sautéed until inky. Raw is, I know, all the rage, and it could easily be swapped in, here. But I like the vivid, meaty quality of kale that's only just flirted with heat.
To this is added caramelized delicata, roasted simply in olive oil, skins and all. (Despite years of reading recipes to the contrary, I'd never believed you could/should/would want to eat skin-on-squash. I imagined it tough. I sized it up bitter. I figured it a compromise, at best. Then Heidi ran a delicata squash round-up, and encouraged, I roasted a what-the-heck batch. And discovered the skin helps hold the whole together and adds this tender sweet excellent chew and that I had it figured all wrong, exactly upside down and backwards. Which is awesome.)
While things blister and bronze in the heat, you chop almonds, shave parmesan, pluck a pomegranate. Shake up a quick vinaigrette. Because once your leaves and slices stop steaming, you'll toss them together, still warm, with all that.
Got that? Caramelized commas of savory-sweet squash, tangled up in rich mineralled tender kale. There is sherry vinegar there, for clarity. And roasted almonds, for toasty crunch. And parmesan filings, for obvious reasons. And pomegranate, for fireworks. Not just for looks, those arils. Not even. They could be dull brown, and just as essential, for the bright juicy pops they bring to the whole.
All told, it is this merry riot of toothsome and tender and excellent crunch, of salty and savory and tart and sweet, of green and orange and red and rejoice.
As written, this yields dinner for several salad-as-main sorts, or a side for four to six. And indeed, it may neighbor our upcoming turkey, a salad substantial and bold enough to stand its ground against all that beige. But in practice, this is an everyday salad, part of my regular lunch rotation. Here is how:
At the outset of a week, I make a full batch of roasted squash and pomegranate seeds. That's the work, done. Then, day of, I fire up the skillet with a shimmer of oil and fistfuls of slivered kale. Once it wilts, I add a helping of cold squash, which warms in the kale's heat, and in turn, cools the kale to just-warm, which is just where you want it to add in the rest. A splash of dressing, seeds and nuts, shave of cheese, and he-llo. I've not run any hard side-by-sides, but generally speaking? I find that when my lunch looks like this, it bodes well, very well, for the balance of the afternoon.
A Warm Salad for Cold Days :: Kale, Delicata, Pomegranate + Almonds
As to kale, I've used and loved lacinato (a.k.a. Tuscan; dinosaur; cavolo nero) and red Russian. You'll need a proper wedge of parmesan here, to shave. Pass over the grated or shredded if that's all you've got, and either substitute another strong cheese (ricotta salata, aged gouda), or leave the cheese out altogether. This salad stands, without it. Finally, squash numbers: I usually use 2 large-ish delicata squash, and always wish I'd used 3, because once roasted, it eats like candy, and I inhale half the batch before the salad bowl sees daylight. You've been warned.
2-3 delicata squash
2 bunches kale (2 pounds, give or take)1 pomegranate
1/2 cup salted roasted almonds, chopped
wedge of parmesan, to yield 1/2 cup (packed) shavings
olive oil, 4-6 tablespoons
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Wash squash, trim ends, and slice in half cross-wise (the short direction), then halve lengthwise. (I find shorter lengths of squash simpler to halve.) Scrape out seeds and strings with a spoon, then with flat side down, cut squash into 1/4" slices. Toss with a good glug of olive oil (1-2 Tbs), and a generous 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Roast at 400° for 20 minutes, then increase oven to 450°, flip squash slices with a spatula, and return to oven for another 15-18 minutes, until surfaces caramelize and bronze up a bit.
Wash kale, leaving water clinging to the leaves. Strip leaves from tough stalks; discard stalks. Stack leaves, then slice into narrow (1/2") ribbons. In a large wide skillet (or dutch oven), heat 2 tablespoons' olive oil over medium-high heat, until shimmering. Add damp kale in batches, tossing and adding more as initial layer wilts and room opens up, 30 seconds or so between additions. Continue until all kale has been added, then add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a splash of water, and toss every 20-30 seconds, until kale turns dark emerald green, glossy, and is tender but still toothsome, 3-4 minutes from final addition. Set aside to cool slightly, 15-20 minutes.
Seed pomegranate.* Roughly chop almonds. Shave a small heap of parmesan, 1/2 cup or so, to taste. Set aside a small portion of pomegranate arils, nuts, and parmesan to garnish, if desired. In a lidded jar, add 2 tablespoons' sherry vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and swirl to dissolve. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, replace lid, and shake well to combine.
Salad is ready to be assembled as soon as kale is no longer steaming, a warm-ish room temperature. Warm is fine; we just don't wish to melt the cheese. In a large bowl, or the kale skillet (one less bowl!), toss the kale with the dressing. Add delicata, almonds, pomegranate arils, and parmesan, and with fingers, toss oh-so-gently, just to incorporate. Taste for seasoning; add additional salt/vinegar to taste. Garnish with reserved bits, if desired. Salad holds beautifully up to 2 hours. Enjoy at room temperature.
*I subscribe to the Lay Down Newspaper and Let Your Kids Go At It school of pomegranate seedery. We slice off top and tail, break apart across natural fissures, then set the several resulting clumps on the table to be plucked. Absent small fingers, the underwater method's a fine alternative.