Let me set the scene for you.
Me. Hair blown straight, curled at the ends. Liner and mascara framing my eyes. Black and white knit jacket, zipper on a bias, edged in soft black leather. Black pencil skirt, black tights, black boots balanced on three-inch heels. Head to toe, ready to impress.
The room. One long table in front of the window, lined with wine glasses and bottles of red and bottles of white. Ten round tables, ten plates of macarons, ten seated men. The sound of French chatter. Lots of smiles. This is speed dating at the French Library.
I walk towards the empty chair, hand plunged into the depths of my purse, feeling for … for what? a pen? my phone? a beret? I don’t remember … for whatever I’m looking for. My fingers fumble over something they don’t recognize. It’s round and plastic and squishy. Eyes locked with my first “date,” I withdraw a totoche. Lilli‘s pink pacifier weighs awkwardly in my palm. I stare down at it. I stare up the man standing in front of me.
In my mind, I explain that last night I met my friends’ newborn daughter and, oh là là!, her binky must have fallen into my bag. Out loud I merely say, oh là là! and stuff the totoche back into my bag.
I tilt my head and brush back my hair and bat my lashes and shrug. He shakes my hand and says bon soir. We sit down.
That was my Valentine’s Day. How was yours?
Bulgur and chickpea salad with parsley and mint
Here’s a salad that I made for lunch a few weeks back. It has nothing to do with this story, but I’ve been meaning to share it for a while. Inspired by a pile of small cucumbers and a bouquet of herbs, I found this tabouli-inspired recipe. I added the extra step of peeling the chickpeas. This takes about 5 minutes per can and, while some might find it tedious, I find it soothing to fall into a rhythm while letting my mind wander.
Makes 4 lunches
– 1 C medium or coarse bulgur (I used coarse)
– 2 C water
– 2 15-ounce can chick peas
– 25-30 sprigs fresh parsley (1/2 C finely chopped)
– 15 sprigs fresh mint (1/4 C finely chopped)
– 3 small (Persian) or 3/4 large (English) cucumbers
– 3 scallions
– 1/4 C fresh lemon juice
– 1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
– 1/2 t cumin
– salt and pepper
Simmer. For coarse bulgur: Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the bulgur and salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat, and allow to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. For medium bulgur: Place the bulgur in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pour on 2 cups hot or boiling water. Allow to sit for 20 to 25 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. Drain and squeeze out the water.
Peel. Rinse and drain the chick peas and then peel them. Grasp each chickpea between your thumb and forefinger, apply a little bit of pressure, and the outer transparent skin will slip right off. Each can took me about 5 minutes.
Chop. Finely chop the parsley and mint. Cut the cucumber into approximately 1/2-inch cubes. Slice the scallions into thin rounds up until the point where the green turns dark.
Shake. Shake in a jar (or whisk in a bowl) lemon juice and olive oil with cumin. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Toss. Mix the bulgur, chickpeas, herbs, and scallions in a bowl. Toss with half the salad dressing, adding more to taste. The salad is even better the next day.