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this year will be a good one

Tamar's Pesto on ToastIn my little corner of the world, 2013 has just begun. I enjoyed two lovely days of it before picking up a horrible flu — one, or perhaps two (varied symptoms considered), of those nasty strains going about. I got sick the night before we were supposed to leave Michigan, and, needless to say, our travel day was a rough one. For illustration: before we even went through security, I sat down on the floor of the airport and cried like a very small child. Anyway, I am only now climbing out of the depths of illness and tissues and brothy soup and toast, and so for me, it’s a very new year.

Late as I am to this party, there are already plenty of profound musings out there about aspirations and intentions for 2013. I am among those who revel in resolutions. Perhaps it’s my penchant for planning, but I also like the idea of a moment in the year set aside for dreaming, starting fresh, feeling hopeful that we will accomplish those things we’ve become afraid we’ll never do. I keep my list of resolutions relatively short, and now that I am a bit more self aware and a bit less idealistic than I once was, I try to make them realistic and manageable. I think about the ways I’d like to be — more timely, or more decisive, or more generous in my thoughts and behavior. Nothing is stopping me from changing, and so onto the list of resolutions they go, mantras for me to repeat throughout the year. And I choose tangible things, too, like foods I’d like to cook and books I’d like to read. (This, of course, is the simple path to lines struck through text, to feeling accomplished.)

Tamar's Pesto on Toast

My parents gave me Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal for Christmas, and I’ve been working my way through it ever since, comforted by Tamar’s words and ideas and calming voice. Just reading her thoughtful phrases makes me feel that I really can waste next to nothing in my kitchen and be the kind of cook who can start water boiling and come up with a plan for dinner by the time the bubbles rumble in the pot. And so, one of my resolutions for the year is to cook a bit more like Tamar Adler. Not exactly like her — I’m working for feasible resolutions, you’ll recall, and this woman is amazing — but with a hearty dose of her spirit.

Most of us could stand to be less wasteful in the kitchen, and Tamar offers recipes to that end, simple formulas that leave me longing for woody cauliflower cores and enthralled with leftover parsley stems. Weary of sickness and deeply inspired, I used up my remaining energy after a trip to the market to roast a few vegetables for the days to follow (which led to a vibrant beet salad and a soothing pot of cauliflower and potato soup), and I made this pesto with the remains. It was quite fabulous: atop toast as pictured, mixed with cheese and pasta and lemon for dinner, straight off the spoon.

And with that, here’s to 2013, in our kitchens and out there in the great big world. May we be more kind to the earth, our bodies, each other and, yes, even our vegetables.

If we can manage that, I think this year will be a good one.

Tamar's Pesto on Toast

Tamar's Pesto on Toast

Garlicky Leaf, Stem + Core Pesto

Adapted from Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace

This recipe is versatile and flexible, which is, of course, the point. Next time, I plan to use slightly less olive oil, more garlic and/or a bit of spice. Tamar notes that this is wonderful dolloped on toast and topped with Parmesan, treated as a side dish or combined with Parmesan cheese and mixed with hot pasta. I made the latter with penne pasta, adding lemon juice and zest, fresh parsley and more salt and pepper. I think a sprinkling of red pepper flakes would be welcome as well.

4 – 5 cups stems, leaves and cores of any of the following: cauliflower, broccoli, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard and cabbage, sliced or diced into 1/2-inch pieces

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional


pinch of freshly cracked pepper

Put everything in a pot just big enough to hold it and add water to cover by half. Cook it at just below a simmer until anything you prod with a wooden spoon is smashable. Keep just enough water in the pot to make sure the bottom’s not burning, adding a little water if you need it. When everything is soft, purée the mixture quickly with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor, or simply smash it with a wooden spoon, leaving bits of irregular texture. Taste, and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

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