A Fresh Start + A Glimpse of Spring

Happy 2019 from my family to yours, here’s to a year of goofy moments.

Happy 2019 from my family to yours, here’s to a year of goofy moments.

Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I’m not sad to see 2018 go. Though it held some great moments (Japan and our family road trip through Arizona and Utah stand out) , it was an intense year to say the least, with our move across the world happening smack in the middle of it. The first half of the year was burdened with pre-moving preparations, and the second half with post-move adaptation (which we are not quite finished with yet; someone told me it takes 9 months, though 2 years is usually more like it).

Amongst all of this, there are of course many things I am grateful for: my kids are growing (way too fast) and it brought me immense joy (with a bit of growing pain) to witness my son fall deeply in love for the first time in 2018, and my daughter turn from girl to woman in the blink of an eye. The year 2018 also marks my 20th anniversary with Israel. Though our relationship has certainly experienced its low points (not helped by the stress of moving), my love for him is deeper than ever, and we are going strong.

The first few months after moving back to Barcelona came with lots of work outside of the house as well, which I was only happy to take on. I truly enjoy what I do. However, I pushed myself way too hard (tends to happen), and by December I clearly needed a break. On top of everything, frustrated business project took a lot of energy out of me. It’s sometimes so hard to figure out whom we can trust. There was nothing I wanted more than to spend a quiet, warm, cozy holiday season (which in Spain is long- stretching out until January 6) staying still in our new home. Alas, things turned out bumpier than expected, as usual.

Perhaps being too overrun led me to suffer one of the worst bouts of insomnia EVER, despite all the herbs and relaxation techniques and sleep apps I could get my hands on. Stubbornly, I refuse to resort to conventional sleep-inducing meds, which I’ve seen my mom and grandma get addicted to. I’ve never been a great sleeper, but this time my regular anxiety was given a boost by a break-in to our house while we were asleep the night before New Year’s Eve. Fortunately, as far as break-ins can go, this one wasn’t that bad: we didn’t find out anything was amiss until the next morning, when my new electric scooter wasn’t parked in its regular place next to the front door. The burglars took the scooter and some cash that was in my wallet, and they obviously didn’t make it past the foyer, but the scare of having someone break into your own home left me feeling vulnerable and ill at ease, not good for sleeping. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s morning were spent dealing with police at home, police at the station. We now set the alarm to go to bed. So much for a peaceful end to a shaky year. At least, as my optimistic husband said, that nasty part will stay in 2018, while 2019 rings in everything good.

Alas, it wasn’t over. Three days later, already in 2019, my fancy iPhone X was masterfully pickpocketed from my purse just a few seconds after I got onto the metro. And I’m a local, who always warns her foreign students, clients, and guests about Barcelona’s infamous pickpocketers. They are even more expert than I could imagine, snatching a phone out of a zippered-up bag that was crossed over my body, without me even noticing, within the blink of an eye. I felt so stupid, this isn’t supposed to happen to me, not in 2019! I spent the rest of the day in a daze, and came home to sob uncontrollably right onto whomever’s chest was the first one to greet me, which happened to be Bruno. It’s comforting that he’s so big.

What am I supposed to learn from this? I kept asking myself, trying not to turn it into a victimized why is this happening to me? I guess it’s that material things are not important. We really went in that direction this holiday season, avoiding any type of excess (well, there was lots of food), unnecessary objects as gifts, and especially anything plastic. My family is healthy, only that matters. Even so, the events of those few days left me more sleepless than ever, feeling that it was not OK to relax, that I couldn’t let my guard down -which I have a hard enough time with sans theft.

On a culinary note, though the spring still seems far off, with the temperatures now reaching below freezing, I caught a glimpse of it with the first batch of green, tender fava beans that arrived in my farmers box this week. I took it as an omen of good things to come.

When I started Desayuno con guisantes, my Spanish blog, many years ago, I wrote about the zen of shelling peas and the beauty of simple things. For favas you need twice the patience, as they need to be shelled first, and then blanched and peeled. Some people eat the outer skin to avoid that tedious second shelling, but I assure you it’s well worth the effort. They are a great group food, and I have taught many-a-spring class with fava recipes, so as to enlist the extra shelling hands. Kids are great for this kind of task, their little fingers apt at piercing the skin. There’s another route, though, which is to take on the task on your own, turning it into a meditation, an exercise in mindfulness. So one sunny, cold winter Thursday morning, with everyone still asleep, I dedicated a peaceful while to shell, blanch and peel one by one, in silence, mindfully, in the spirit of rebirth: a new year in a new place, an upcoming spring and a fresh start.

The recipe comes from Ottolenghi’s Simple, which has been on my kitchen island since it came out a couple of months ago, and combines favas with one of my two favorite foods in the world: avocado.

I turned it into lunch with an egg on top and some crusty GF buckwheat bread.


Fava Avocado Mash
based on a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi

250g/1/2 lb. shelled fava beans (not yet peeled)
1-2 ripe avocados
1 lemon, zest stripped with a vegetable peeler, and then 1/2 juiced
1 baby leek, minced
salt, to taste

Boil a small pot of salted water. Add the shelled favas, and blanch for 1-2 min. Drain and refresh with cold water or an ice bath. Once cold enough to handle, shed them of their skins, one by one. Reserve 50g/a large handful. Combine the rest with the avocado, 2 Tb oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and the lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until almost smooth (or a little bit chunky, to your taste). Spread onto a plate.

Fry the leek with the lemon zest in the remaining 2Tb of oil until golden. Remove from heat and add the reserved beans and a pinch of Maldon salt. Spoon this mix on top of the fava/avo mash. Serve as is, with good bread or crudités, or put an egg on it. Enjoy the upcoming spring.