I cleaned up all the holiday remnants on Monday. I made piles of what needs to be returned, boxed up the decorations, and dumped our brittle wreath and miniature tree. No offense to you Christmas cheerleaders, but it all becomes a bit much for me - the lists, the toffee, the spending and the formalities. It honestly was a wonderful day, but I think this year, more than ever, we saw most clearly what we wanted from the celebration, or rather what we wanted to contribute to it, and I think next year will look different.
My haste to clean up is a personality trait (a vice sometimes). I like things to be moving forward, to be improving and growing, and the New Year's holiday commemorates that. I made a date with Hugh last year to discuss our resolutions for the sake of accountability and it may be one of the highlights of my marriage to date. You can have a list of three or thirty things that you'd like to take note of as we dance right into 2012, but having some accountability - a person who loves you to listen - makes the list worth making. Last year I scribbled down intentions to master roasting a whole chicken, get certified to teach pilates, save a bit of money for a down payment and have chisled arm muscles. The answers are yes, not yet, yes and errr, working on it? But the point is that I wrote them down, shared and revisited the list and I think it's an exercise worth doing (It may not give you chisled arm muscles but it's good for the spirit).
I really love writing letters. I couldn't write a scholarly essay in college worth reading but I LOVE personal letters. An item on my list this year is to communicate compliments or positive thoughts to people as they cross my mind. I want to send letters of affirmation to friends, or post cards to acquaintences just to say, "I really enjoy your blog" or, "You are super easy to talk to and I like it." Same goes for my husband, to remind him how I appreciate how he always make me laugh, or a note to my family. We'll call them love letters, and I plan on roping Hugh into this because I think men are even more hesitant to compliment each other. I started by writing a letter to Jennie, a woman in the food blogging world who lost her husband suddenly earlier this year (you may remember or participated in "A Pie for Mikey"). I thought of her recently and wanted to write her a letter. Maybe it's weird, because we don't know each other, but I am another woman who can't imagine coping with that kind of loss, so I figured I'd say hi.
The recipe below is one from her site that I've tweaked around a bit for my taste. It's nice to have the little nuggets in the fridge to dip in the pesto sauce for an afternoon snack. I haven't had them with marinara yet, but I imagine that'd be nice as well.
There will be celebrating with close friends this weekend and hopefully another date to discuss resolutions with my beloved.
May the new year exceed your expectations and challenge you.
LENTIL "MEATBALLS" // Serves 4, Makes 18 small balls
Meatball recipe adapted from In Jennie's Kitchen
The sauce I made is less a pesto and more a dressing, as the lemon juice adds quite a bit of acid to it. I thin mine with a bit of water, but if you like it thicker, simply don't add it. Adjust to your personal taste.
In honor of lightening up post-holiday, I like them as is, maybe on some sauteed greens. I don't feel that their "meatball" title necessitates noodles. Anyway, those are decisions I'll leave up to you.
2 cups cooked lentils
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup ricotta
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. fennel seed, crushed
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
Hefty Pinch of Dried or Fresh Thyme
1 tsp. each sea salt and pepper
2/3 cup breadcrumbs (fresh or panko, preferably)
Lemon Pesto Sauce
2 cloves garlic
1/4 Cup Pinenuts
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 cups basil leaves
1/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. grated parmesan
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. water to thin
In a food processor, pulse the lentils into rice like pieces.
Into a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, ricotta, parmesan, garlic, fennel seed, parlsey, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to mix well. Stir in the breadcrumbs and lentils and let the mix sit in the fridge while you make the pesto.
For the pesto sauce, put the garlic, nuts, lemon zest and juice and salt in a food processor or blender and run until finely chopped. Add in the basil leaves and olive oil until you get a smooth, sauce-like consistency. Add water, oil or lemon juice to thin as desired. Stir in the parmesan and pepper flakes set aside. The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for about a week.
Preheat the oven to 400'. Check the lentil mix by rolling a 1'' round ball between your palms, it should hold together fairly well. If it seems pretty wet and it falling apart, stir in another Tbsp. or two of breadcrumbs until the ball with stay together.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the mix into balls and line them up on a baking sheet (they don't need lots of space between, they won't spread). If you like a bit more of a crust, brush them with olive oil.
Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown, gently turning the balls over halfway through baking. Remove to cool slightly.
Serve with your favorite noodles, on a bed of sauteed greens, or simply on their own with a nice drizzle of the pesto sauce.