My Nana was a most extraordinary lady. Tomorrow, it will be two weeks since we lost her. As this is Holy Week there are surely parallels to be made about resurrection and new life. But frankly, they do not bring me comfort because they do not bring back her smile or her dancing or her enthusiasm for life which was contagious to those around her. I feel like I should do more here in tribute to her; I want to do more here in tribute to her, given the profound impact she has had on my life. At her memorial service I talked about how I believed that Nana’s legacy was that she taught us the language of food. She showed us how we can channel our feelings of grief, joy, and frustration into the preparation of food and use it to show other people that we care about them. It would seem fitting then, that tomorrow we plan a huge dinner in honor and remembrance of her. But the idea of doing so seems like an overwhelming task because there is simply so much to say, both with words and with food. Where do you even begin?
Answer: You begin with bunnies. Pear bunnies, to be exact.
Lets talk about the delicious creation that is fruit salsa. Fruity, a little bit tart, with cinnamon & sugar chips to dip? It’s the best. I especially love it because I have some very fond memories from the first time I ate it. Specifically, my friend Katie made it for the baby shower that she planned with my mother in-law before Olive was born. Coming from a food-loving family, I don’t know how it is that I had never seen such a thing before. Nevertheless, I vividly remember trying it and thinking that I could not believe that it was possible for my life to have such a void as it apparently did in the years before experiencing fruit salsa. Many thanks to Katie! :)
At the time, I didn’t know if Olive was a boy or a girl and I most definitely did not know that our bundle of joy would become my life’s greatest challenge (see Mothering Mini Me). Ignorance is bliss, however, so in my state of blissful ignorance, I had a lovely afternoon with my friends and Central Pennsylvania family celebrating our impending arrival with delicious food and absolutely no games that required candy bars to be placed in diapers and identified.
In the years since, I’ve had fruit salsa several times and the traditional combo of fruit seems to be apples and an assortment of berries, sometimes with kiwi, and then served with cinnamon and sugar tortilla or pita chips. If you make it that way, as Katie did, it will be fantastic. In fact, if I had a bowl of it in front of me right now, I would sit here and keep eating it for the next two hours…..or until it was completely gone. If I ran out of chips, I would have no hesitation grabbing a spoon and shoveling it in as fast as my hand could return to the bowl. This time around, I found papaya at the grocery store and the bees in my head started buzzing, so I made a tropical fruit variation. And because my other friend, Miranda, recommended it, I used wontons instead of tortillas and it was all so very yummy.
This time of year is kind of like a no man’s land of seasons. It’s technically still winter, but for those of us in the northeast, spring is just around the corner and we are so over winter we cling to whatever hint of warmth and sunshine we can find. From a food standpoint, that means lemon. Lemon everything. Lemon cake, lemon bread, lemon chicken. It’s brightness and acidity are a sharp contrast to the warmth of chili and cinnamon that have permeated most of our winter cooking. This time of year, cooking with lemon is as close as you can get to harnessing a little bit of sunshine on an unseasonably warm day and pouring it into the food you cook. It’s brightness warms you up just as much as any bowl of hot soup.
How adorable are these little tarts – tree-shaped puff pastry topped with pears, goat cheese, Salty Sweet Pecans, and drizzled with a balsamic reduction? How is that not good? Pears, goat cheese, & pecans are one of those flavor combinations that just go together. You can put them in and on anything – a salad, crostini, in a panini, and because the flavors just work, it’s practically guaranteed to be a success. Give these tarts a try, they would be a welcome addition at your New Year’s Eve party!