Since I have been old enough to create memories I have dreamed of traveling. I love everything about it. I love discovering new cultures, new foods, and new people. I love airports and trains and collecting passport stamps. If you were to look today, in the various places I keep various notes, you will find specific travel plans mapped out for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Our 2-year-old just took her 43rd flight. We travel with 10 passports between the 5 of us and I will have to get new pages added to mine long before I near my 2025 expiry date.
So it was a huge surprise when, last week, while rolling my efficiently packed black rollerboard through St. Pancras Station heading to the Eurostar for a two day jaunt to Paris to meet my husband, I picked up the sound of the following chant: “I just want to be home. I just want to be home. I just want to be home.” It started tinny and slight. Like it was coming from a pair of headphones someone else was wearing. But gradually it got louder and louder until it was blasting from the loudspeaker above and the words began running together: I JUST WANT TO BE HOME I JUST WANT TO BE HOME I JUST WANT TO BE HOME. The sound was deafening. I looked around trying to pinpoint the source, and when I did the shock really set in. It was coming from me. My brain was shouting at me: I JUST WANT TO BE HOME. My love for travel had fallen ill and at that particular moment even the romance of Paris was struggling to compete with one very simple desire: to be home.
As I continued forward in the direction of my train, first a local, then the infamous Eurostar, I fantasized about what I would be doing if I was still in Notting Hill instead of starting up a long set of parallel tracks. I would have made the 7-minute walk to our nearest grocery store. I would have spent an hour perusing its sun-filled aisles, cheery with an embarrassment of selections. I would walk up and down each section slowly glancing left and right and left again looking for inspiration, supplies, forgotten oils and spices that I was sure would serve me purpose, I just did not know when. Finally I would make selections, head home and prepare dinner while my three children competed for my attention and my affections: holding one while reviewing another’s homework. Helping one to set the table while asking another to turn on cartoons for the third. Finally we would all sit down for dinner and by the light of the long summer’s day we would chat through the past week’s happenings and the next week’s comings.
Instead I was in a train station.
I kept going and eventually, I arrived in Paris. I spent two wonderful days in the sunshine walking hand-in-hand with my husband while working through challenges in our relationship, bright spots on our horizon and plans… always plans for the future.
It was as lovely, romantic and beautiful as Paris should be. When we got home though, that was when I felt true joy. That was when I saw my three children, took them all in my arms together and squeezed them and smelled their hair and rubbed my cheek against theirs and thought, for a moment, that that was the best life would ever have to offer me. And I would take it.
The afternoon I returned I did go to the grocery store. I walked up and down the aisles picking up supplies, forgotten oils and spices that I was sure would serve me purpose, I just did not know when.
And that evening, with the sun still shining, I made an enormous and complicated salad and poured two glasses of cold white wine and the five of us sat at the table over dinner and basked in the glory of all being together. All being here. Now.
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon runny honey
- 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 small zucchinis, sliced into medallions as thinly as possible
- small handful of tenderstem broccoli (or a cup of broccoli florets)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
- 6 slices of halloumi cheese (or you can substitute about a quarter cup of fresh goat cheese)
- two large handfuls of baby kale
- 2 tablespoons of toasted pecan halves
- Combine the first five ingredients plus a pinch of salt in a large bowl and whisk well. Add the zucchini and stir to coat. Set aside for 20 minutes.
- Bring a small pot of water to boil and cook the broccoli for 2 minutes. (Don't overcook).
- Place the kale into a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to completely coat the kale.
- To create the salads first divide the kale evenly among 4 plates. Then evenly divide the broccoli among the plates. Add the marinated zucchini slices in the same manner sprinkling any of the leftover vinegar mixture evenly over the salads. Top with the toasted pecans.
- The very last step is to grill the halloumi, tear and serve. To do this get a large grill pan hot and brush a tablespoon of olive oil over the ridges. Add all 6 slices of halloumi to the pan at once and cook until they are light brown - the color of peanut butter - on one side (about 5 minutes). Then flip and do the same on the other side (about 4 minutes). As soon as you pull them off either cut or tear them and place onto salads. Serve and eat immediately, while the halloumi is still warm.
- If you need the salad to wait a bit before serving or if you want to make this as a buffet salad then consider using goat cheese instead. For that make the salads completely and at the very end, using small spoon, spoon out small dollops of the goat cheese to top the salad. No cooking required.