Sunday, we threw caution to the wind, and spent a good portion of the afternoon outside. We took turns with the hand drill, boring out sticks and stumps, talking chucks and bits and summer. While we were at it, we cleaned out the old Weber, readying it for May. For spring.
We decided Monday was close to May, or to Spring, anyway. Because by Monday, the grill was begging, and also the weather, and so we obliged. So what if I stood flipping steak in my puffer, rated at 20° below? The kids, cold hardy souls that they are, bounded about in sweatshirts alone. "For the first time all year!!", they shouted, with glee. It's a tired kid's joke, trotted out each new year. But they were correct, and we are in month three, and so it seemed fair that the joke's still got legs.
By Tuesday, it was a rip-roaring seventy, so balmy and pleasant everyone came unhinged. Kids raced like released greyhounds on the playground. Adults peeled off layers, spoke of Spring. Drank it in, while we could.
Because Wednesday, with wind chill, we were back to ten. With snow blowing throughout the afternoon. No accumulation, unlike elsewhere. But a strong sense of pendulum, all the same.
And today? Today, we should approach sixty.
After all, it's almost-Spring, in Ohio, when wild swings are the only steady. I don't mind it. Indeed, I kinda like it. Lets me hold on to winter, as long as I can. And besides, the whiplash seems somehow fitting, this particular week.
It's been one of those scattered, deeply discombobulated weeks, with every day, something new. Or six somethings. Or seventeen. Not bad things, just things, life things. Lots and lots and all unrelated. Technology wrangling. Spring cleaning. Room re-arranging. Summer dreaming (them; tools). Summer anxiety (me; everything). Infrastructure snafus. And improvements. Random errand-running. Extensive box-checking. Me, on a chair, at 10:37 p.m., touching up the ceiling paint.
Because that patch, there, came off three years back, in an over-zealous streamer removal effort. And our 2012 Christmas tree was a bit tall, and left a good gash, and why is it still there? And who even knows what happened over here, but these torn patches have glared at me for years and enough already, out with the paint brush!
(Ask anyone else in my house, and I'll bet you a cake they've never noticed. Ceiling paint patches? What patches? What paint?)
A week with lots of big grown-uppy things, the foot-draggy stuff one loves to postpone. Taxes. Filing. Long tedious to-do's. Leaky ceilings. Leaky pipes. Desks to excavate. It's so tempting to procrastinate. And so wildly satisfying to finish. If a little disorienting. (Where, the dread?)
One of those weeks when I'm wielding a power drill one minute, a calculator the next, wondering all the while what to do about water filters. And all the while dripping with handmade, ruby-hued, plastic pop bead bangles. (It's a look.)
Inside, outside. T's and shorts, hats and mittens. Heat up, windows wide. Manual labor, mental muscles. A centrifugal week. An every which way, every day sort of week. I'm told some people live for such weeks. People who love new, and change, and different. It keeps, I'm told, things interesting. I'm also told some people get bored.
I've never been bored.
Not once. Not ever.
No surprise, then, that I'm a bit wiped, and probably pretty twirly-eyed. But I can't help looking up and back and realizing just how much got done. How thrilling that is. How productive I feel. Even if I felt a little crazed along the way. I do love a dollop of productivity. Maybe herky-jerky is the key? (Please say no?)
But variety. Variety I can do. Take this broccoli. It's so not that broccoli. Indeed, it's unlike any of our ordinary broccoli. Our broccoli, I thought, was fairly diverse, flirting sometimes with sharp cheddar, sometimes with parmesan, and just to really push the envelope, sometimes with water buffalo. If you're like me, you probably see this for the wide, far-reaching range that it is. If you're like, well, everyone else, you might notice a subtle, discrete theme. (CHEESE!!!) I'm not complaining about this cheese rut, because cheese and crucifers are heady together. It's just that I didn't notice the rut. Didn't realize all we were missing. Past tense.
Borrowing this book from the library last month was the crowbar I needed to lever us out. Inside, I spotted an entry for one Broccoli Cashew Salad. It read well. It tasted leagues better.
Here's why: You blanche a fleet of broccoli in salted water until tender-crisp, and drain it until the drips cease. Meanwhile, you whisk up a sesame-deep, miso-rich vinaigrette, with rice vinegar for tang and soy for salt and if you're me, fresh ginger for zing. When the broccoli is dry but still warm and thirsty, you toss it with this heady sauce, gently, thoroughly, patiently, to encourage maximum sponging-up. To gild the lily, in goes a cup (a cup!) of roasted cashews, a good toss of sesame, and a fistful of scallions.
Think about that.
And yes, while you're at it, grab your fork.
You'll want it, and a biggish plate, too, to chow down on what results. It's meaty with broccoli and cashews, sharp with scallions, umami-awesome with miso. The sesame seeds wind up in the florets, winkling into secret spots, the way they do. It ripples with the faint, warm bite of ginger, which appears here and there like sunlight, like Spring. There is tender and crisp and savory and soft and crunch and sweet and all kinds of crazy. It is not your calming broccoli cheese. It's broccoli, every which way. Which, as it turns out, is a way I adore. At least where broccoli is concerned.
Gingered Sesame Broccoli + Cashews
adapted from Choosing Sides, Tara Mataraza Desmond
The ginger is my add, and I adore it; feel free to play with quantities, to suit. I grate mine on a Microplane, which yields juicy, fiber-free ginger pulp that distributes evenly. Though Mataraza Desmond names this a side dish, I count it a main, and happily. That said, it plays really well with slow-roasted salmon, and I keep imagining tiny, fried tofu cubes, tossed in. I've no doubt it would flatter roasted chicken. Shrimp, too. A tangle of rice noodles wouldn't be wrong.
Leftovers are almost better than originals. The cashews soften slightly, the broccoli goes a bit army, and the whole thing settles into itself. Ace. Also, I think this has summer picnic written all over it.
2 pounds untrimmed broccoli
2 Tbs. miso (white or mild)
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbs. soy sauce
2-4 tsp grated ginger
1 cup roasted, salted cashews, roughly chopped
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup chopped scallions (1 bunch), whites and pale greens
salt + pepper, to taste
Place a large pot of well-salted water on to boil. Trim ends and rough outer stalk from broccoli, then cut head into 1" florets, and slice stems to 1/2". When water comes to a roiling boil, blanche broccoli 4-8 minutes, until cooked to your liking. (The original recommends a just-cooked 2-3; I prefer a just-crisp 7-8). Drain broccoli in a strainer; let sit 10 minutes, while you prepare the embellishments.
While broccoli drains, mix the dressing. Whisk miso, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and grated ginger in a small bowl, until thoroughly combined. Roughly chop cashews. Thinly slice scallions. Once broccoli has drained thoroughly but is still warm, 10-15 minutes, tip into a large bowl, pour dressing over, and combine gently, thoroughly with the miso dressing, tossing with wide spoon or your hands to fully incorporate. Add cashews, sesame seeds, and scallions, reserving a few of each for garnish, and toss again. Scatter remaining nuts, seeds and scallions over all. Serve immediately, warm, or at room temperature, or cold. It's all good.