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september, and broccoli salad

September 5th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

Well hi there! Did you notice, by chance, what occurred since the last time you came around?

September.

A turn of the calendar page, a brand new backpack and pencils for some and Fall has unofficially arrived. There’s no back to school for us this year, strange as it feels, but the timing of our days can still be measured by the big yellow buses that roar past our house both morning and afternoon. I listen in as my friends drive their littlest and last baby to pre-school, bemoan their First graders, send a child off to the first day of high school and forlornly bid goodbye to the reckless and free hours of summertime. But when your only child is out of school, the days spill in to one another like raindrops in puddles, and it happens without notice or care. Today is just another day, and tomorrow will be the same. The luxury of a child out of school is that I can spend extra days at the lake after Labor Day, watching the fun of the last weekend of summertime give way to an eerie quiet as the lake empties, cabins close and cars haul off the boats. Night falls without the scent of woodsmoke, as no campfires dot the shore. And I’m breathless at the sight of the early morning thick fog that covers the water.

Fall is my most favorite of seasons, of transition and change and settling down for the cold weather ahead, but it often leaves me melancholy and introspective, and wishing for new challenges. In comes September, with a sun that drops lower in the sky and morning chill that begs a sweatshirt, leaves that drop and spin across the lawn, and I find life redeemed by blue jeans, big pots of bubbling soup, freedom from pedicures, tucking the skirts away and shaking out sweaters, long forgotten.

And I’m also redeemed by eating broccoli stems.

If you’ve always just chucked your broccoli stems in the compost pile without a second thought, I’m here to say ‘Stop!’ and instead, take a vegetable peeler to those stems and carefully remove that tough, fibrous outer layer because underneath is a heaven-sent tender stalk that’s perfect for a rustic and simple raw salad. Think broccoli slaw without the dried out, flavorless taste found in a bag. Add in some thin sliced peppers, or a touch of shaved fennel – apple! yes, apple!!- or really, any crunchy addition of your liking. Toss in sliced almonds. Chopped hazelnuts. Toasted crushed peanuts. This is not cut and dried at all. Shave some fresh parmesan, drizzle some good olive oil over it and zest a lemon in it’s general direction with a squeeze of golden, sunny juice. You be the judge. The creator. The instigator. Save your broccoli stems for redemption. You’ll be so glad you made this; the crunch in your mouth will mimic that underfoot as the leaves begin the inevitable trickle downwards.

Lately, I seem to be drawn in more and more to the simple means of cooking in my kitchen, born of a love that knows no limits to some well-received culinary advice via many, many different channels and respected voices. I’ve examined, with more depth and discernment, the manner to approaching my days, and my meals and found that the less I do, with more of what I utilize, the better I feel about what I am eating. And in return, I physically feel far better. In searching my refrigerator and cupboard for inspiration, I’m asking myself ‘What do I really want to eat? What does my body crave?’ and most importantly, ‘How will I feel after I eat {{fill in the blank}}?’ In paying attention to the physical need, I find I am satisfied with far less and hunger for simplicity.

And if I’m spending a few dollars on gorgeous, organic broccoli at the Farmers Market, still clinging to dirt and bearing long bright green stems, but only snapping off it’s flowery heads to consume, then I’m selling myself short of the work, effort and end brought by that farmer. Their effort deserves a bit more respect than that. You can chop and add the stems to a pilaf or stir fry too.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT FALL???