During a polar vortex, you may find yourself craving greens. I know that I did, and that is why I chose to make this recipe for Broccolini and Sweet Sesame Salad from, "Plenty," by Yotam Ottolenghi. When the weather is as cold as it has been this mid-January, 19 degrees the other day, we will often bulk up on carbs and comfort foods. Or we may get lazy and resort to food delivery apps, and order our favorite Chinese food go-to, or in my case, take-out from Pur Bird (they have a really good chicken thigh wrap, which I like to pretend is healthy, because it has some cabbage in it).
I knew that bad weather was coming, and sat down and did some meal planning. I like to pick three recipes, and one soup recipe. The three contenders for cooking may include a grain salad, a green vegetable, and a red. I may fill in with proteins, using fish, eggs, nuts, or beans. Maybe my craving for greens is because I am starting to think about May, the beginning of the gardening season for me, and Spring. Think green. I wanted a recipe with heavy duty green vegetables, and Broccolini and Sweet Sesame Salad was my baby. It includes not only broccolini, but green beans and snow peas as well. The mix creates a wonderland of textures, to be topped by a tahini forward dressing.
See the end of this post for how to make this Broccolini and Sweet Sesame Salad, and enjoy!
This, that, and the other...
I recently saw the movie "Cold War," by the Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski. It reminded me of seeing art films in movie theaters like "The Thalia," in NYC, in the sixties and seventies. The film is in black and white, and the cinematography is stunning. I highly recommend you see this film.
Thinking about the movie reminded me of the time that my family took a roots trip with our French and Israeli relatives to Poland. We went to towns where our ancestors lived, and paid homage at each site. We also visited many holocaust memorials, Concentration Camps, Spielberg's Schindler's List museum, and a site in the forest where there had been mass executions and graves. At the last, statements were read, prayers made, and flowers laid.
Relating this to a friend, and going into the history of some of our family members, made me recall to myself another connection. It was the first time I had ever seen the tattoo of a number on the inside wrist of someone who had been incarcerated in a concentration camp during World War II. Dan's uncle, Henri, was the second on whom I had seen this imprint. But the first brought me back to memories of my days working as a book designer in publishing.
My second job as a book designer was with Viking Press, before it merged and became Viking Penguin. Viking Press was a private company, run by Tom Guinzburg. The culture of a private run company was very different from that of a corporation. There was the feeling that we were all family.
It must have been the company celebration of Christmas that year, when the entire staff was invited to a townhouse. Stepping into this townhouse was eye opening for someone like myself. The decor was opulent. There was probably the kind of art work I would see in a museum. And there were servants to take your coat, and serve the guests food.
There was someone there of equal importance to Tom Guinzburg. I cannot remember his name, and I think it may have been his townhouse in which the celebration was taking place. There was a buzz about being in this person's presence, and my impression was that he was kind and unassuming, despite his importance and wealth.
Upon entering this townhouse for the year's end holiday celebration, a servant took my coat. As I handed my coat over to this person, I spied the tattoo of a number on the inside of his wrist. The blue of the tattoo was startling. I had never seen anyone who had been a survivor of a concentration camp. All the same, I recognized significance of the tattoo immediately. I am haunted by the iconic photos of skeletal prisoners of the camps in striped pajamas, bodies against barb wire fences. My Grandpa Izzy's 12 sisters had all died in such camps. Izzy knew how to daven, but never believed in God again.
I think that I felt humbled to have this person, who had lived a life unimaginable to me, so gracefully take my coat. I was glad he found employment in this townhouse. I imagined he was protected in this space.
This memory makes me think of the times we live in now. Holocaust denial is the fashion by groups such as neo nazis and the alt right. History is being erased before our eyes. Like the cheshire cat in "Alice in Wonderland," our facts are disappearing before our eyes. In our country, real facts are replaced with alternate truths by the likes of Donald Trump and the GOP. There are many other despots around the world, doing the same.
In the book, "Becoming," by Michelle Obama, she talks about staying optimistic and working to make change. Daily I remind myself to live those values. And I remember our holocaust victims. Their history will not be erased, as long as keep them all in my heart, and bear witness, for they are in my DNA.
I realized as, over the years, I wrote essays about food--Laurie Colwin's Tomato Pie, my father's mac and cheese--that as M.F.K. Fisher said, writing about food is really writing about love. When I write an essay about food, I am really uncovering something deeper in my life--loss, family, confusion, growing up, growing away from what I knew, returning, grief, joy, and yes, love."Kitchen Yarns. Notes on Life, Love, and Food," by Ann Hood
Broccolini and Sweet Sesame Salad
Ottolenghi found inspiration for this salad from "Ingen no goma-ae," Japanese green beans with ground sesame and miso. He then blows apart the Japanese flavors by making use of tahini in the sauce.
- 4 tbsp tahini
- 2-½ tbsp water
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- ½ tsp tamari
- ½ tbsp honey
- ¾ tbsp cider vinegar
- 1-½ tbsp mirin
- pinch of salt
- ¾ lb. or 3-½ cups broccolini or purple sprouting broccoli
- ¾ cup green beans
- 2 cups snow peas
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
- 1-½ cups cilantro leaves
- 3 tbsp toasted sesam seeds
- 1 tbsp nigella seeds
To make the sauce. Whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl (reduce the amount of honey if you don't like it too rich). The sauce should be smooth and thick but with a pourable consistency, so adjust the amount of water as necessary. Taste and add more salt, if you like.
Trim off any leaves from the broccolini. If the stalks are thick cut them lengthways into two or four, so you are left with long and thinner stalks, similar in size to the green beans. Trim off the stalk ends of the beans and snow peas, keeping them separate.
Bring a medium pan of unsalted water to the boil. Blanch the green beans for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just tender but still crunchy. Lift into a colander and refresh under running cold water; drain and dry well with a tea towel. In the same water blah the snow peas for 2 minutes; refresh, drain and dry. Repeat the process with the Broccolini, blanching it for 2 to 3 minutes.
Mix all the vegetables together in a bowl with the oil. You can now serve the salad in two ways. For one, stir most of the cilantro leaves and sesame and nigella seeds in with the vegetables and pile up on a serving dish; pour the sauce on top and finish with the remaining cilantro and seeds. Alternatively, pile the vegetables on a serving plate, dotting with cilantro leaves and sprinkling with seeds as you go; serve the sauce in a bowl on the side.