Like Bridget Jones, I believe in the mini-break. I found some inspiration when I passed by a small Turkish shop in our neighborhood – they had three crates of pomegranates just in. I’m a sucker for food you have to dissect, so pomegranates are a favorite winter dessert of mine. I suspect it has something to do with the number of Shirley Temples I consumed as a child. (I know I’m taking my life into my hands, but I love a good maraschino cherry.) I first tasted a fresh pomegranate in India; we massaged the fruit like Nigella rubbing garlic into a leg of lamb, to crush the seeds, then cut a tiny X in the skin and drank it like a juice box (Thank you, Azar).
When I’m looking for a bit of summer on a gray day I often crave grilled sardines, or octopus – thoughts of a secret seaside village in Crete that G and I have been frequenting for the past few years. This year, instead of eating my yogurt and honey in a bikini with a view of the sea, I was sweating it out in a Paris delivery room with no AC. (I love my son, but next time, I want to get pregnant on the vacation, not instead of the vacation.)
I don’t have a rock to smack my octopus on, like the Greeks do (apparently it tenderizes), but octopus preserved in oil is available year round from our Sunday fishmonger. I chopped a bulb of fennel that had been hanging around the fridge waiting for an suitable dance partner. I added a small handful of fresh dill and sprinkled on the pomegranate seeds, like tiny rubies, for color. A dribble of olive oil and a splash of sherry vinegar completed the dish. It’s hardly a substitute for a Greek Island, but followed by a bubblebath, it did add a ray of sunshine to my day.
In other news, we have two contenders for personal geo-political disaster of the week. I was on the metro the other day when a man sat down next to me. Not too close, of course, as the seats in the Paris metros are calibrated so that no one can stretch across them to sleep.
“You are French?”, he said, leaning over.
“No, I’m American.”
“Hi,” he said, putting out his hand. “I’m your occupation.”
I blinked. How did he know I was a writer? Did I have long forgotten press pass around my neck? Maybe it was a translation problem. “Excuse me?” I blinked again.
“I’m from Iraq. I’m your occupation,” he smiled, his hand still dangling between us.
What to say? If that’s a pick-up line, it (like our foreign policy) needs some work.
But first prize goes to G, who was in Warsaw this past weekend for a conference. He listened to a perky young blond explain how her region could apply for European Union funding to help equip digital cinema screens: “They put aside money to help develop regional tourism.” she said with a big PR smile, “We have a salt mine, and Auschwitz."
Many of you will soon be descending into the button-busting, fight about the lumps in the gravy, who absconded with the electric knife weekend known as Thanksgiving. We are having our Thanksgiving Dinner on Saturday, I’m off to ask the butcher today to see if he will roast my Turkey for me with the daily chickens…no room in my teeny Parisian oven…
1/2 pound octopus in oil, drained
1 bulb of fennel, coarsely chopped
1 handful pomegranate seeds, about half a pomegranate
1 small handful of fresh dill, chopped
1 avocado (optional)
1 can of red kidney beans (optional)
Drizzle of good olive oil
Splash of sherry vinegar
Coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Place the fennel, octopus, dill, pomegranate seeds (and beans, if using) in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, a splash of vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine. If you want to make the dish slightly more substantial, add the sliced avocado on top.
3 oz lime soda
3 oz ginger ale
Dash of grenadine
Maraschino cherry for garnish
Pour lime soda and ginger ale over ice in a Collins glass. Add a dash of grenadine, stir, and top with a maraschino cherry. Hand to a little girl. But only if she is wearing a velvet dress, and preferably, a tiara. (Too much information?)