Friday, June 21, 2013

Momma Diaries: Apricot-Blueberry Lentil Salad

You know that pretty-pink, fruited lentil salad from last fall? Remember how the whole reason I made it it the first place was because I was supposed to get a similar recipe--with blueberries and basil--to some family friends of ours? I had made the salad at the end of summer in Washington, but blueberries come earlier here. I've been double-fisting them for a month and only last week remembered to put them to work. It has been nine months since I last made it. The season has come and nearly gone already, but I managed to catch the crop by it's shirt tails before it ran away.

This salad is odd for me. Not in taste, obviously, but memory. It was on that same trip to Washington that I decided it would be a fine and peaceful thing to have another child. Another child. Kevin had wanted it for a while, as did a few key family members, but I was not so keen. I'd spent the first, oh, three years of Cedar's life swinging from despair to anxiety to elation and back 'round again, and I wasn't sure such excitement was how I wanted to spend any more of my life.

But then there was Washington. Something happened there--some kind of revelation. And I suddenly thought, sure, I can do that. It could be different.

It could have been the mountains or the coolness or Kevin's aunt and uncle that helped the shift. It could have been all the extra hands all the time for entertaining that three-year-old. It could have been the food (tiramisu, blueberries, and cream), but no matter what or who or why, it happened. And after Kevin and I powwowed we decided to pause until January and then see--to give the revelation time to sit.

Of course then October was the month our baby stars aligned, and here we are, eight months later, staring down that tunnel of newborn and toddlerhood, taking deep breaths.

I only freak out some of the time, like on the day I made this lentil salad. I brought the fruited beauty to a potluck that my midwives were hosting for all the families involved with them over the years. Great potential. The salad itself was lovely at room temperature and perfect for potlucks, and the gathering could have been so good for connection and calming. I thought maybe sidling up to some like-minded mamas would help launch me out of my relapsed holy-hooters-we're-doing-this-again slump to a joyous-day-we're-so-at-peace perspective.

But that isn't what happened.

It was purely situational, really. It would have been great to talk to these nice Valley people. They were my kind. They bring lentil salads to potlucks and have their babies in their living rooms. But. It was over a hundred degrees that day, and heat has never been my friend. It was also just Cedar and I--Kevin was whooping it up in the woods. To top it off, we went to the shindig starving and already totally off-balance. He clung to my skirts. I hate it when he clings to my skirts.

I spent a lot of the time taking big, cleansing breaths and feeling like I would burst into tears or a rage at every turn. We were absolutely the perfect picture of a whole, healthy, well-attached, ready-for-a-new-baby family. When we finally left we were starving again and spent the 20 minute drive home bawling. Both of us. Good lord I am pathetic. I mean, I am so ready for another human being in our midst. Can't we tell?

But the lentil salad. The fruity, apricot-blueberry lentil salad. It was, indeed, so nice. Let's think about nice things like that. Nice like, I cleaned out my freezer yesterday and beef stock is simmering on the stove this very moment. Or, it is so nice that my midwives are exactly as I hoped them to be, that they are opinionated but utterly realistic and supportive. They let me freak out every other session and then talk me down from the height of my insanity. And, it is so nice that blueberries grow at all in California. So nice.

My neighbor asked me yesterday if I were anxious about the baby, if I wanted to move the process along at all. I said no, and she was surprised. I said I knew what life was like with a baby, and I felt no need or desire whatsoever to hurry anything along. It would come.

She shifted on her feet and avoided eye contact. I smiled and laughed and stroked my belly to reassure her.

Photo compliments of Ahmad Farms, just a half hour up the road. They're "Famous for White and Yellow Peaches, Apricots, Asian Pears, and Apples," but it is their Loquats I can't get enough of.

I don't mean to be lackluster about the whole thing, but I spent so much time being anxious with Cedar before and after the birth that it seems very wise and peaceful to just live, not pining for something that will come when it wants to.

It's kind of like the salad. Kind of. I waited (ha!) nine months for the salad and its blueberries. I expected to make it again with the apples, but again, blueberries come early here--with the apricots, not apples. Last year I didn't know this.

Last year I didn't know my body would take my revelation so seriously so quickly either. But here we are. Apricot-Blueberry Lentil Salad, baby on the way. The hope is that we can eat the salad again and not bawl, that maybe we might be peaceful like last time and not starving and crazy. Maybe I could think about the nice things like being huge and beautiful again, and not having any plans of moving any time soon.

Or, the hope that seems most wise is that I'd be at peace with the awkward, timely surprises. We're about to have another child. I freak out to release a little energy. I bawl because I can. And in the midst of it all I actually feel just fine, like I'll be ready to take the double doses of babyness when I need to be ready. Maybe not last week or now, but when the baby is ready, ripe, and here.

Apricot-Blueberry Lentil Salad

This makes a lot of salad. If you're nervous, halve it. If you're not, have at it! (Aren't I clever?)

2 cups dry lentils (I used the pretty green turtle ones)

1/4 cup mint, ribboned
3/4 cup basil leaves, ribboned
1/4 cup celery leaves, ribboned
1-3 tablespoons honey
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 green onions, green part only, sliced

6 good-sized apricots
4 cups blueberries
1 cup toasted walnuts, broken (optional, but so good!)
feta or chevre, to finish (optional, but so good!)

Rinse the lentils and then cover generously with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to a simmer for about 20 minutes, or until tender but not falling apart. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, whisk together the herbs, honey, lemon juice, salt, and onions to a large bowl to mingle.

When the lentils are coolish, strain off the lentil broth  and gently stir them into the dressing. If you can, let sit overnight in the fridge to marinate. I am rarely patient enough for this, but the lentils always taste better the next day.

When you are ready for serving, cut the apricots into like-sized pieces to match the blueberries and add them, the walnuts, and the berries to the lentils. Taste and adjust seasoning. Note the sweetness of your apricots especially. If they are the California variety, darker orange and bright-tasting, you may need a bit more honey and/or oil.

When the seasoning is as you like it, transfer the salad (if needed) to a serving bowl and crumble the cheese over the top. Tastes best at room temperature. Enjoy!

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