When I give a gift, I feel that I’m showing my love, care, and appreciation for the recipient. And when I receive a gift, I in turn feel loved, cared about, and appreciated. I know it sounds awful to say that someone can buy their way into my heart, but it’s the truth. Any stranger could show up on my doorstep, hand me a beautifully wrapped present with my name on it and, quite honestly, they’d just about make my year. I love gifts. It’s just who I am.
This past Christmas, I received (among some others) four very special and very practical presents. Cookbooks.
Now, before I go on, let me say something here. I truly appreciate any gift related to cooking because, if you haven’t noticed already from reading this blog, it’s something I do quite a lot of. But books? Those are my real weakness. I could empty my entire bank account at the bookstore in one day. I’m not kidding! Though I’ve never tried this, I’m sure I could do it. So, as you can imagine, when I opened up a box full of books on Christmas—cookbooks, to be exact, laden with delicious and mouthwatering recipe upon recipe upon recipe—I just about tipped over into the heap of wrapping paper on the floor beside me. These really were the perfect gifts.
For the past several weeks, I’ve been pouring over every page of each cookbook tagging recipes that I want to try and jotting down notes for meal ideas. It’s been a blast.
Over the weekend, I set to work on some of recipes on my “high priority” list. While flipping through Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd, I saw a carrot salad that looked tasty. Instead of the following the recipe to a T (and ending up with a massive bowl of carrots to serve 24 people!), I used it as inspiration for my own concoction: a carrot-raisin salad with just the right amount of tang and saltiness from a squirt of lemon juice and some crumbled feta cheese. Now if that doesn’t sound like edible heaven, I don’t know what does.
With winter on full blast here in Wisconsin, there’s not much fresh looking lettuce at the store these days. So salads like this one utilizing root vegetables and the fresh, tart bite of lemon are a nice alternative to a plate of greens. The raisins add a great burst of flavor and their sweetness plays off the salty feta cheese wonderfully.
The cookbooks I received for Christmas really are lovely gifts. But it’s the inspiration that they’ve given me in the kitchen that’s been the best part. Come to think of it, isn’t food itself one of the most precious gifts of all? In the end, it’s what nourishes and fuels us. And even if it’s just a simple bowl of carrots and raisins, food is that rare substance that can satsify our deepest cravings and enliven us from the inside out. It’s the ultimate gift…the gift that gives us life.
Tangy Carrot-Raisin Salad - serves 2-3
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
1 tbs. chopped parsley
Handful of raisins
Juice of half lemon
Pinch of salt (not too much; the feta will lend plenty of saltiness)
Crumbled feta cheese, for garnish
Combine carrots, parsley, and raisins in a bowl. Add lemon juice and salt. Divide among 2 or 3 small bowls. Top each with a few feta cheese crumbles. Serve and enjoy.
(This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.)