When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when and where you want them.
Today: A citrus salad to tide you over until spring really comes -- and the stuffed dates you'll want to eat always.
3 AM. My eyes fly open. I'm not sure who or what is to blame -- my coughing son, my snoring dog, my hormones, the loud drunken dude passing by our house, the mini earthquake -- but here I am, at 3 AM, staring at the ceiling, electrically awake. I am a vibrating blob of neuroses. I am slowly slipping over to the dark side.
First I go through the minor stuff. Compost must go out tomorrow. Need more floss. Don't forget to make crêpes for the school party.
Then I jog through the annoyances. What in the world is that smell in the living room? Do I need to report those neighbors with the crazy dog? Where is my favorite potato peeler?
Then I get to the rants. The short-short denim shorts being sold in every single store that I can't wear because, well, they're just too short. Eleven-year-old kids glued to their iPods. Those new Jacked Doritos -- I mean what's wrong with original nacho cheese? And why didn't someone protect Justin Bieber from the perils of fame?
And then I drop into a full-scale tailspin about pesticides and antibiotics and too many cars and global warming. I breathe for my sick grandmother. I ache for my friend whose father just died. I worry about foster kids everywhere, the passengers on that missing Malaysian airliner, and the drama unfolding in Ukraine.
I want to wake up my kids and kiss them. I want my husband to come home from his business trip so that I can hold his hand and hear his breath. I want to pull myself out of this ugly quicksand and find my way back to my dreams.
I roll out of bed, walk down the hall, and enter the kitchen.
I consider a shot of vodka.
I stare at the daffodils and the platter of citrus on my kitchen table. I smile at the explosion of yellows and oranges glowing in the moonlight.
I feel recalibrated.
I return to bed and drift off to sleep assembling over and over again a salad of sliced navel oranges, broiled dates stuffed with goat cheese, and toasted almonds. I make the salad for lunch the next day. And the next. Until all of the citrus is gone and the daffodils are wilted.
Serves 1, generously
1 shallot, diced
1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 pitted dates
1/4 cup goat cheese (fresh and creamy, not aged)
A splash good balsamic
2 navel oranges (or Cara Cara or juice oranges)
1 seedless tangerine
1 tablespoon slivered blanched almonds, lightly toaste
Lemon zest (preferably made with a zester, but a Microplane is fine)
8 parsley leaves
Photos by Phyllis Grant