here comes the sun
I’m going to be honest. It’s still a goat rodeo around here and I’m no where near catching up. In addition to the regular drill, for some reason, I decided to add spring cleaning to the mix. So, this is fun. I’m no where near done, but I'm working on it.
I was out walking, as I do, once the weather warms past, say, minus ten. These walks aren't usually, anything remarkable. They are for the most part short, familiar, pretty rote. Some days are all-in! Other days forced marches, same-old, same-old. I can (and do) sometimes stray, take different turns, go farther, go longer. But what makes them easy and often is that unthinking, old rut quality. It's just what I do, it's why it works.
Anyway, there I was, traveling an old groove, listening to my iPod when suddenly I came to a halt.
Turns out, I was staring at the sunset, a saturated thing, one vast sherbert gradient, shameless, gaudy. Obviously Photoshopped. Except, not. And really, the sky was just the last straw. Everywhere, every bulb was clamoring for attention, from the last daffodils to the earliest tulips. The plum trees, always the spring ringleaders, were full-on, with countless crab apples lining up in lock-step behind. As I gazed around I thought, "It should always just stay this way. Just like this. Like right now. ALWAYS."
Yeah. What I just said.
After that stretch of celestial drama, a few weeks back were a wonder of gentle breezes and perfect air, seventy-degree days and garden afternoons and knees caked irredeemably, exquisitely with dirt. The world was doing its Fantasia thing, colorizing itself before my very eyes. In Spring, in April, in Ohio, the number of inches on every living thing doubles, daily. Brown is barely in my vocabulary, any longer. The beauty is mind-boggling.
Meanwhile, I ask you, "Do you know why I try to do so many things in a day? It's because then I can do so much more in my life."
(At sixty three?)
What I said, again.
Because this is this month, in a nutshell. The glory, and the gutting excess of things undone. The breathless spectacle and towering to do's. Transitions are messy, as evidenced by every suffocating surface surrounding me. I bounce between flip-flops and Uggs in the same week. I live (and sleep) like school's out for the summer, then study long past lights out. I've not yet left jammed schedules behind, but am straining to enter the slack of summer. I'm strung between seasons, a situation which can only and ever be taut. I'm old enough to know this; not yet wise enough to remember. It's only standard-issue Spring, the raggedy excellence of April. I should just add it to my calendar.
Instead, I've been doing the next-best thing, binge-listening to the soundtrack of my life, via my iPod.
As I approached a Level 10 meltdown the other day and I was forced to call time of death on my charming walk experience, I suddenly noticed the music that was accompanying my exit–my favorite opera aria, Nessun dorma, the exact part that gives me goosebumps–the part that makes me close my eyes and imagine I’m front row at the opera and Andrea Bocelli is singing it live, to me, and I’m feeling all the feels, crying in my black dress and pearls because my soul is being wrung out by the greatest musical crescendo that ever was. Even in that chaos, I felt it–the music, the goosebumps, the depth of feeling buried in all moments, taking flight given a good accompanying song. It was both beautiful and humorous, how perfectly timed it was. I was the final act, storming out in a dramatic scene of crying, making my way home as the music dramatically built and a tenor roared in Italian, “Vincerò! VinCEEEEERRRRRRò!”–which, come to find out, coincidentally means, “I will win! I will win!” I’ve taken it upon myself to make Nessun dorma (translated, “None Shall Sleep”) my theme song. All’alba vincerò!: At dawn, I will win!
Oh hey, Life!!! I see you dumped more crap in my lap and the temps are back in the 30's!! All’alba vincerò.
If opera can make tragedy beautiful and people pay money to feel the intensity of emotions that come from putting music to stories, then surely we could all benefit from more music. More theme songs for dramatic exits, more arias for quiet days, more lyrics remembered and tunes recalled and symphonies composed in our heads to pull all the feelings from these fleeting moments.
There are lyrical nuggets buried in every event of life. Under the sun in my garden this past Sunday, I wiped sweat from my brow, grabbed an empty bucket, took a deep breath and smiled while I hummed my own soundtrack–here comes the sun (doo doo doo doo doo)
Here Comes the Sun Spring VegetablesThis is more blueprint than recipe, swap in slivered snow peas, artichokes, or another green, or more leeks and no peas. Baby carrots, quartered, would be amazing. Or young turnips, sliced thin, with their greens. Shop your fridge, and your farmer's market. Fresh nutmeg would be ravishing, here. Finally: this looks like a lot of leeks, I know. Trust me on this one.
2 Tbs. salted butter
6 medium *or* 4 large leeks
1 lb. asparagus
1/2 lb. chard, kale or spinach
1 cup peas (frozen petite, or fresh)
1 rounded tsp. kosher salt + more to taste
splash of water, stock or wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
lemon, zested + juiced
In a large skillet, melt butter gently over low-medium heat.
While butter melts, prepare leeks: cut away root, and tough dark green ends, leaving white and all tender pale green. Next, halve leeks lengthwise, then rinse well under running water, fanning layers to remove grit. Leeks are sneaky; be thorough. Once clean, cut leeks crosswise into 1" slices. Add to melted butter, along with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss gently with butter to coat, and leave to melt over medium heat, smooshing a few times to separate layers, and stirring to expose new bits to the fat and heat. Stir occasionally, while you prepare remaining veg, adjusting heat if needed to prevent browning.
Trim tough ends from asparagus, then slice into bite-sized, shy 1" bits. When leeks have collapsed and are headed toward translucent, around 5-7 minutes, add chopped asparagus, and toss well to mingle. Continue to cook the two veg together, another 5-7 minutes (thicker spears will take longer), while you prepare remaining ingredients. If leeks and asparagus begin to look at all dry, add a splash of water, stock or wine, to loosen. Just a Tablespoon or two. Your goal is not to caramelize, but to braise and intensify their glorious juices.
Wash and trim greens, removing any tough ribs or stems (I love and keep chard stems, but lose tough lower kale stems). Slice greens into ribbons, 1/2" or so. Taste a few bites from the pan: when the leeks are silken like buttered noodles, and the asparagus almostdone, and al dente, add the greens (and fresh peas, if using; frozen go in a few minutes later), stirring them to coat. Continue to cook 1-2 minutes, then add cream and frozen peas, and stir to incorporate. Turn heat down to low, let simmer another minute or so, then stir in a heaping teaspoonful of lemon zest, and a good squeeze of juice, 1-2 teaspoons. Don't overcook. Your peas should stay green; your greens, emerald.
Now, heap a good spoonful into a bowl. Taste. Really taste. The seasoning that happens next is everything. You'll likely need a bit more salt, possibly more lemon, perhaps more cream. Once everything tastes exquisitely of itself, you are done. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over all, plus another good hit of lemon zest, and dig in.
this is amazing tucked into a crepe!