Monday was my birthday and because Evan was mired nose-deep in work, I resurrected a much beloved tradition of getting the day to myself. The tradition has evolved and changed over the years, but I like keeping it and even a very rainy birthday couldn’t keep me away from a date with … myself. I don’t remember the last time I had time for myself, to wander about, do what I fancy and be left alone with my own thoughts for any prolonged period of time. I am not complaining because in effect, the lack of time had made Monday that much more special.
I treated myself to a very large cup of coffee, my e-reader firmly in my lap and a bit of people watching. I headed to a few of my favorite shopping haunts eyeing beautiful pieces and decided that by lunchtime, I was refreshed and sated, ready to celebrate and spend time with my family. Of course celebrating usually involves some cooking and prepping and who wants to do any of that on their birthday?! Not I! Coincidentally, April 7th is National No Housework Day 🙂 and having recently uncovered this very fact, I made sure to cook this weekend so that we could enjoy a lovely dinner and even dessert almost prep-free.
First up was a polenta topped with a rich eggplant-tomato sauce – a very satisfying recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi that I had been looking forward to trying. This satisfying main accompanied a last-minute, spur-of-the-moment panzanella salad that Evan and I whipped up together. Coincidentally, or perhaps because I’ve been mentioning this for quite a few months, Evan got me Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook as a present. After putting Sophia to bed, I spent a few minutes perusing the recipes and scanning the stories that he writes about Jerusalem, Israel and the cultures that are reflected in Israeli cooking. I was happy to see some Armenian, Georgian, Syrian, Iranian and even Indian dishes represented.
I fell in love with Israel when Evan and I visited on a Birthright trip in 2009. The food, its variability and vibrancy played such a huge part in the seduction. Of course the people, the culture or the melding of the cultures, the antiquity of it all played a significant role as well. Never have I seen people, especially the youth, live life so fully, embracing every moment as if it were their last. Because a trip to Israel is not in our plans for the next few years, I’ll settle for being momentarily transported to this wonderful corner of the earth through food.
But I digress — this was a birthday meal and as such, a dessert or more specifically, a cake was absolutely required. I didn’t want to bake my own cake and didn’t think that I wanted something with layers and a rich, sugary frosting. I ended up making a pavlova dressed with lemon curd, whipped cream and berries. It was … it was just spectacular. Light, airy, sweet and yet tangy, not rich but decadent. It was spring personified and so beautiful.