The Court’s Indulgence: White Bean, Sweet Pepper, And Arugula With Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Court’s indulgence. This picture is blurry. It was a long day.

It’s not often that things on TV are pretty much exactly the same in real life.

Last week I sat on a jury for a five-day trial. The defendant was accused of 24 counts of crime, including first-degree rape and possessing a weapon when he wasn’t allowed to possess a weapon.

(Fun fact: the defendant’s last crime was prosecuted by Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 1993. Federal drug charge.)

I have never sat on an actual jury; I have been called for jury duty three times in my life, and mostly it’s just lots of sitting around and watching movies like How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days and Avatar. This time was different, and I was quickly seated as Juror #4 by noon on my first day of reporting, then sent home until Monday when the trial would begin.

Everything about the trial was pretty much what it looks like on TV: the dramatic opening and closing statements, the cross examination, the witnesses getting testy with the defense attorney, and, finally, conflict (and resolution) in the deliberation room.

Time seemed strangely fluid as well; hours would pass in the courtroom in what seemed like minutes, but in the deliberation room, every minute was an agony of waiting. At the end of the day we would emerge from our windowless room, cram ourselves into the elevator, and then emerge at the corner of St. Paul and Lexington, blinking against the too-bright sunshine of the late afternoon, at the height of rush hour to crawl our way home.

Of all the things that stuck in my mind that week, one in particular stands out. Whenever the lawyers had to gather something or find something that meant the action had to pause briefly, they would say, “Court’s indulgence,” and the judge would nod, indicating that she was cool with the wait.

“Court’s indulgence.”

I don’t know why, but I love this saying. It’s a respectful request for permission to pause while you gather your thoughts, something we could all use every now and then.

One day when I came home it was stuck in my head like a mantra, playing over and over as I fed the dogs and made dinner. On that night, it was hot outside and the back door was open, letting in a feeble breeze (and lots of flies, which drives The Black Dog crazy, an admittedly short trip). It had been an especially long day, nine to five listening to a case about rape and gun violations, and I wasn’t particularly interested in making something complicated for dinner or turning on the stove.

Court’s indulgence: I remembered my preserved lemons, which were ready and waiting.

Court’s indulgence: There were some small, sweet yellow, red, and orange peppers in the crisper, along with half a red onion and some arugula that I wouldn’t even need to wash.

Court’s indulgence: A bomb shelter’s worth of canned beans in the coolness of the basement.

Et voila. Dinner, eaten with the court’s indulgence, on the balcony in the back of the house as the evening wore on and the sun sank low.

White Bean, Sweet Pepper, And Arugula Salad With Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Ingredients

2 tablespoons minced preserved lemon (rinse to remove salt and also strip away the squishy flesh)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup best-quality olive oil (it matters)

1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper (I like a lot of pepper)

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

One large red pepper, chopped, or five small multi-color pepper, chopped

1/2 large red onion, sliced

Handful of arugula per salad

Method

Make things easy on yourself and mix this all in the same bowl. I used a medium-sized round white Corningware bowl.

Place first five ingredients in bowl and mix together. Add beans, peppers, and onions and stir to combine.

To serve, place a large handful of arugula in a bowl, then top with beans. If you feel the need, you can drizzle with more olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, but mix it all around and taste before you do that.

Beans are even better the next day, chilled and then brought to room temp before serving.

 

 

Spring Greening

The key to a clean house. #ForReal
The key to a clean house. #ForReal

My kitchen is filthy.

As I emerge, blinking, into the March sun from the deepest recesses of the hell that is February and look around, I realize that my house is decidedly not in order.

It happens this way, sometimes.

When the earth begins its long march away from the sun, starting in June but accelerating in earnest as we move through November, I can feel myself retreating, hibernating. I may join humanity for a holiday party or three, but fuck it.

Bears don’t clean.

So the house gets a basic wipedown to prevent it from looking like a truckstop and to keep us in clean clothes and toilets – a whore’s bath of housecleaning, if you will – but other than that the baseboards grow furry, as do the underneath parts of nearly every surface in the house.

I was gifted a year’s worth of cleaning lady for Mother’s Day one year, and after the lady’s first visit she remarked, “It looked good until I started cleaning.”

This is nearly every winter of my life.

But the other side of this is that I cannot function well in a house that is filled with dirt. Metaphorical or otherwise.

Everywhere I look there is grime.

#BadFengShui

I feel like Punxatawney Phil (the only groundhog. #FuckOffGeneralLee). Of course he is going to see his shadow. They wake him up at the crack of dawn and shine lights on him, and all he can think about is whether or not he has crumbs on his chest from lying on his ass all winter, binge-watching Nurse Jackie while eating dry chocolate Chex because milk is superfluous and they are GLUTEN FREE now. He just wants to waddle back to his hole and go back to bed for six more weeks until someone comes in and cleans his house for him.

Or maybe it’s just me.

So here we are, early March.

It’s time to clean up our act. My act.

Whatever.

I feel a massive wave of cleaning energy coming on. It’s slow, to be sure, but I have finally thrown out the Galentine’s Day flowers and the Christmas tree is near the back fence, ready for a kindly neighbor who may or may not be heading to the dump sometime soon (#TrueStory).

I have ordered new side towels from Amazon.

I have changed my sheets and located new ones so they can be changed more frequently.

I bought glass shower cleaner and two rolls of paper towels.

I am getting ready to take various books to the Little Free Libraries located around Hampden, and I am ready to give away and reorganize many of the various things we have accumulated over the less-than-one-year we have been in this house.

It’s time to go top-to-bottom, left-to-right on this bitch.

Usually when I clean like this, I leave directly afterwards so I have the wonderful experience of walking into a house that looks and smells good.

But sometimes people suck and I just don’t feel like venturing out into the world beyond a long walk in the woods, where food is to be found but not easily and not in quantity.

I can’t order pizza in, and although my gluten-free variety is easy, still too much effort after a day collecting ALL THE DOG HAIR IN THE WORLD.

Enter salad.

What the fuck, you say. Or WTF if you are a millennial and #JustCantEven.

Not just any salad.

This time of year the farmer’s marker basket is overrrun with hearty greens: arugula, kale, spinach et al. You can’t juice them fast enough. You can’t put them in soups fast enough. Your kids hate them sauteed, no matter how much you talk about Popeye who’s strong to the finish ’cause he eats his spinach.

Side note: My brother and I used to stuff wads of spinach in our cheeks, call them chew, and spit the juice out on the patio for hours after dinner was over, finally divesting out distended cheeks of the desiccated spinach remains when the novelty wore off. Maybe my mom thought we were absorbing nutrients through our cheeks, or maybe she was overrun with greens herself and didn’t give a rat’s ass at that point.

But back to salad.

This salad is delicious, easy, filling, and versatile as hell. The basics are there, waiting to be supplemented by what you have. Chickpeas leftover? Toss them in. Grilled chicken or steak? Yup. Other types of fruit? Have at it.

After hours of scrubbing walls, baseboards, and stainless steel, this salad makes very few dishes; I tend to eat it with my fingers out of the bowl I made it in.

Kale/Arugula Salad With Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Ingredients

Kale or arugula or whateverthefuck greens you have (but no iceberg. #KeepinItReal)

One small bulb of fennel, sliced (optional)

One crisp apple, sliced thin (optional)

One handful of blueberries (optional)

One handful of strawberries, sliced (optional. Are you sensing a trend? Do what you like)

Squeeze of lemon, if using apples

1/2 cup toasted pecans (or any other nut you like, or no nuts if they make you swell up)

1/2 cup apple cider

2 T apple cider vinegar

4 T olive oil (or other oil, whatever you have)

1 tsp. honey

grind of black pepper

squeeze of Dijon mustard (optional, but it helps the other ingredients emulsify and gives the dressing some heft)

pinch of salt

Method

Place greens and other additions (apple, fennel, nuts, etc) in a large stainless steel bowl.

In a Mason jar, combine cider, vinegar, oil, mustard, salt, and pepper.

Shake like hell.

Wait until you are ready to eat, then shake the dressing and pour it on the salad. Eat it all up.

And hey…don’t wait all winter to clean your house.