What’s for dinner? White beans with sausages and arugula salad with persimmon.
Who cried? Daughter 2.0
Family dinner. Research tells us that it is an important component in the health and well being of our children, in everything from physical health (less likely to be overweight or develop diabetes) to educational achievement (smarter kids!) to mental wellness (less likely to smoke, drink, take drugs or suffer from an eating disorder). Just sit down and break bread with those little creatures you created and voila, you will raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children. So tell me, is it as beneficial if more times than not someone leaves the table in tears?
We have always had family dinner. My Husband and I built our relationship around food – cooking and eating it – and we weren’t about to let having kids get in the way. My Husband has been known to work long hours and so my children learned to expect dinner on the later side. Not as late as Spaniards, but around 8 or 8:30 most nights. We have never been a family that fed the kids before dad got home; we always waited for dad. So family dinner, check! Pat ourselves on the back.
To be fair, last night the tears were before dinner. Mondays and Wednesdays, Daughter 2.0, who is not a dancer but has musical theater aspirations, has a dance class (teen introduction to technique!) until 7:45. Those nights her father picks her up on his way home so dinner is served at 8:15 or thereabouts.
Daughter 1.0 is keeping me company in the kitchen, as she likes to do, giving me a running mumbling monologue of her homework as she completes it. She’s in a good mood. She has been since she started dated a boy (man, he’s 22!) she worked with over the summer. For a variety of reasons I have yet to meet said boy (man!) but my husband and Daughter 2.0 finally have and like him. I have been assured I will in fact meet him on Saturday. This Saturday! She had a crappy cross country meet that afternoon and her shin splints are killing her, but she actually seems in fine spirits.
With dinner all set, I go to the window to see if the car I heard pulling up is my Husband and Daughter 2.0. It’s not. I sit in one of the dining room chairs that flanks the buffet. It’s in the corner of the room. Our house has one public space, a great room (it’s great!) that we created by knocking down some silly walls that used to surround the kitchen and separate it from the dining room/living room combination. Now we basically have what we always dreamed of, a kitchen with couches. Our house would be considered small by most US standards, but is considered palatial by many here in San Francisco.
“I like this room,” I say to Daughter 1.0.
“You’re sitting in the corner of it.” She is a practical, no nonsense girl, that one.
“I know, it’s a good perspective. One I don’t see very often.”
1.0 comes and sits in her chair at the table and angles it towards me. It’s her chair, next to the one that is my chair and across from the one that is 2.0’s chair. Over the years I have learned that ownership of particular dining room chairs and spots at tables is of critical importance. “You’re funny,” 1.0 says.
I am still sitting in the corner when I see my Husband’s car pull up in front of the house. Daughter 2.0 bounds into the room, demonstrating the body roll move she’s learned tonight. She loves the Wednesday class (contemporary) and suffers through the Monday class (ballet).
To recap, dinner is ready to go, I am sitting relaxed in the corner admiring the beautiful room, 1.0 has finished her homework and is in a great mood, 2.0 is so happy she begins to sing, which is what she does when she’s happy. She’s singing Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name.” Actually she’s kind of belting, and she sounds good, and I tell her so. Only 1.0 apparently doesn’t think so, or maybe she doesn’t like that I compliment her sister. It seems my kids believe that a compliment of one is an insult of the other.
“Stop singing, it’s hurting my ears!”
“She’s happy,” I say.
“She’s too loud,” through clenched teeth. 2.0 continues to sing, more quietly. “Mother fucker, shut up! You know I hate it when you sing!”
“Girls!” this is me.
“Well you know I hate it when you tell us everything you’re doing for your homework as you’re doing it, out loud, all the time!”
“Girls!” me again. “Shut up!” 1.0’s voice is rising. I tense up, waiting for something to be thrown.
2.0 yells back, “I just want to sing!” and storms off to her bedroom, slamming the door in the process.
And just like that, my quiet, happy evening is blown. My Husband appears, changed out of his work clothes. “What’d I miss?”
Sausages with white beans
Sausages, any kind you like, but preferably NOT Italian. I used one the butcher called Toulouse.
White beans, fresh or dried
One large carrot cut in chunks
One small yellow onion, quartered
One bay leaf
6 cloves of garlic
Red wine vinegar
Salami cut into matchsticks
Red onion slivered
The white bean part of this takes time, but can be done on different days. Two days ago I shelled a bag of white beans that my husband got at the farmers market. I think they were cannelini, but any any white bean would do. If you don’t have fresh beans, soak a bag of dried for a few hours then proceed. Cover the beans with cold water and bring to a boil with the carrots, yellow onion and bay leaf. Lower the heat and keep at a high simmer until cooked through. To test, cut a bean in half. It should be a uniform color all the way through, no white chalky center. When the beans are done, turn them off and salt the water and add a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Let cool then cover and store in the refrigerator in the cooking liquid. They keep up to 4 days.
The day you want to eat the beans, remove the onion and carrots and bay leaf. Add 5 peeled cloves of garlic that you’ve smashed with the back of a chef’s knife. Bring back to a boil and simmer until the garlic is soft. Drain the beans and garlic and toss with red wine vinegar to taste (I add 1/2 a cup) and one clove of chopped garlic. Let cool to room temperature than mix in salami and red onion.
Fry the sausages or grill them or however you like to make them and serve with the beans.
Arugula Salad with Persimmon
One or two Fuyu Persimmon (the hard ones) peeled and sliced thin
Shaved Manchego cheese
Shallots chopped fine
Apple cider vinegar
Soak the shallots in a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and a pinch of salt for 15 minutes. Whisk in a tablespoon of walnut oil and 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or to taste). Add black pepper, again to taste. Toss the persimmons and arugula with the dressing then top with shaved Manchego.