As a child, I learned about generosity through food. My mother would cook simple things most days, but when we had company, when friends came over for dinner, the meal in itself became a special occasion.
Growing up raised by a single working mother, with always a bit of envy for other children who had large families (while they may have longed for the solitude I enjoyed... because the grass is always greener on the other side...), I placed tremendous value on having friends over for dinner. If I didn’t have a large family of my own, I was determined to build one, a chosen family. Nurturing, literally feeding those friendships was of crucial importance to me.
And what better way to show gratitude and love, than a good meal?
Not just a good meal, but the thought and effort that go into it. The true gift, is the thoughtfulness of it.
I grew up learning that cooking a meal was a way to love, and something to be loved for.
A way to say thank you. For being in my life. For loving me.
I never ever take that for granted. It is too precious.
And how beautiful it is, to give a moment of pleasure to those we love.
A scrumptious bite. A subtle flavor. A burst of sweet.
Preparing a meal for someone, is giving a bit of oneself.
It is an act of love, of friendship. It’s a hand extended out. Open arms. And a plate.
To this day, shared meals remain the cradle of our friendships. A way to cherish my loved ones. To put my cooking where my heart is, if you will.
And I am thrilled Pablo is bathed in this. The kitchen, the dinner table are such rewarding places to learn what generosity means. What loving and sharing mean. They are what makes us feel full in life (pun intended). It goes so much further than sharing a toy at the playground, doesn’t it? And what a thrilling, rich feeling it can give us, this gift of self, this gift of good food.
So... since today is a celebration of love, like every day, I will cook for my loved ones, so we may share a meal, yet another precious moment of togetherness.
And for you... I have a simple, yet flavorful bouquet of sorts...
This easy recipe makes for a festive appetizer, and a fun finger foods for kids of all ages (Dipping is so fun it makes the food taste better in and of itself!) It's a nice mix of textures and colors. You could even make them the night before and have a couple for lunch on the go.
Smoked salmon & green beans rolls, with a grapefruit dipping sauce
Adapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes des Légumes du Potager, by Valérie Lhomme
Prep time - 20 mn
Cook time - 5 mn
Age for babies - 10-12 months with very little dressing, baby can pull the roll apart and munch on the ingredients.
1/2 lb fresh green beans (the smaller haricots verts if you can find them)
8 small slices of smoked salmon or lox
A handful of sunflower sprouts (can be radish sprouts, or other sprouts of choice)
4 circles of rice paper / spring roll wrappers*
(*Note: You could use scissors before softening the rice paper to make squares instead of circles, which might make the rolls easier to roll and the end result more even and prettier to look at. Didn't occur to me to do that until just now, so I winged it with the half circles)
Juice of half a grapefruit
Juice of half a lemon
5 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1 drizzle of honey
Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the ends of the green beans, and plunge them in the boiling water for 5 minutes.
Drain them and pour ice cold water over them right away to stop the cooking. Set aside.
To soften the rice paper: Place one circle of rice paper over a damp towel or cloth, place another damp cloth over it, place the 2nd circle of rice paper on top, and another damp cloth on top, and so on with the 4 circles. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, until soft.
Cut the rice paper circles into half circles.
Place one half circle, round side up. Place one slice of smoked salmon along the edge. Place a few green beans (cut them in half if they are too long), and a few sunflower sprouts on top.
Then from the side, roll the rice paper wrapping the beans, like a spring roll. If you want very even ends, you can cut them off. Or crumple up the rice paper on one end like a little bouquet.
Repeat with all 8 rolls. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the dressing, combine all ingredients in the blender and mix to obtain a very smooth dipping sauce (it will be thin - if you have leftover, this also makes a great salad dressing for greens like mâche, baby spinach or watercress).