Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tired, grouchy, and hungry

I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, but as soon as I told a certain company (cough, AT&T, cough) that my cheap-o Internet plan was plenty fast for streaming music and checking my email, thank you, the connectivity problems began. Now, not only is my cheap-o Internet plan not always fast enough to listen to NPR in the mornings, it also just up and quits on us periodically.

So call me occasionally online or occasionally annoyed or something…

When we get home at 6 and the spouse is at school and the baby is starving and I’m tired and we need to get the bath-time routine rolling, like, now, I freak out a little: Why didn’t I make batches of soup and line individual servings up in Mason jars on my freezer shelf for just these occasions? Why didn’t I steam vegetables on Sunday for snacking and sides all week? Why don’t I have fruit cut into baby-friendly bite-size pieces and neatly tucked into the fridge?

Last night, the Turkey Tail CSA and the veggie peeler made me feel totally together, even when dinner was a warmed-up can of lentil soup and bread dipped into a packaged red pepper-white bean dip. Arugula with curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano,* splashed quickly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, kosher salt and pepper—it feels fancy and grown-up and healthy, even if your dinner companion is trying out the soup-on-head thing.

The salty cheese balances the sharpness of the greens, and it’s totally not the same grated finely. You must drag a carrot peeler slowly against the edge of your block of cheese, letting the curls drop onto your salad with a bit of drama. Then hurry, hurry, eat—fuzzy pajamas and a lullaby await.

Easiest Arugula Salad

a handful of arugula, bigger stems discarded
extra-virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
kosher or sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Put your arugula in a bowl. Drizzle on a little olive oil and vinegar. (If you need to cut costs, do it with the vinegar. I buy a mid-range balsamic at Trader Joe's, and it works just fine. Although I really don't know what I'm missing: I've never been able to spend $30 on a couple ounces of vinegar. Maybe the heavens would open up, and my world would turn upside down. Better not to know, I say.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss a bit. Shave curls of cheese onto your greens with a vegetable peeler. Ahhh, see? You really do have it all together.

*I’ve had friends call me out on spending $15 on a block of real parm at Costco, but I consider it a budget item. We use it sparingly, going so far as to throw the rind in minestrone. And without it, we’d never eat our arugula. Shaking green can grains onto my salad would completely obliterate the joy. (Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the wonders of fake cheese in context. I salivate just remembering the childhood joy licking Cheeto residue off my fingers. But with this simple salad? Just don’t go there.)

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