In spite of having a substantial dose of the type A in my personality, planning is not one of my strong suits. Particularly not the detailed kind. When I plan, checklists, and spreadsheets, and timelines usually fail to make an appearance. Instead, I make a broad sweep through the general idea of what’s going on, or what I’d like to have happen, and then I have a tendency to assume it will just fall into place.
I have been known to forget to order chairs for an event, or to reserve a room for a meeting, or assign tasks to people. Sometimes I think it’s because I don’t try hard enough. That if I were more patient and focused, I would be able to keep track of details.
But really, often it’s not for lack of trying that I don’t plan adequately, it’s because sometimes it simply doesn’t even occur to me to think about the things I miss. I try hard, but they never make even a cursory appearance in my brain. It has a bit of the same sticky mental feeling about it as the way, no matter how hard I think about it, I can never spell guarantee right on the first try.
But you know what, if the intention is there, things have a way of working themselves out (er, at least, usually. It’s also good to enlist the help of somebody who’s more adept than you are). Maybe it’s a snippet of evidence that the universe is benevolent, or that people are generally pretty good-natured and will pitch in to come up with solutions to small snafus.
I find the same sort of thing goes for meals. When I have the time and gumption, I’ll piece together carefully curated meals with courses, main dishes, and sides that all balance and complement each other. But, many a weeknight, my meals look about as cobbled together as the outfit of a first grader whose mother let her dress herself.
Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but there are even some days when our supper looks like it could have been the product of a potluck, even though I’m the one who did all the cooking. I just make several things I want to eat, and I don’t over-exert myself thinking about coordination.
But still, it has a way of working out. (Admittedly, I try to keep the dishes I’m serving together in the same regional cuisine family, which helps a great deal.) Sometimes it works out better than the meal I would have constructed had I been fussing and planning.
Such was the case with the meal in which my extremely green peas played a role. They co-starred alongside a radiantly fresh cabbage-kohlrabi slaw with dried cranberries, and a roasted piece of flounder splashed with a quick lemony pan sauce. They were not 3 dishes I would have thought to pair together, but they were unexpectedly pleasant, like a rainy day that suddenly clears up into streaming sunshine.
So, I thought I would let you know about the whole meal, in all of its odd but satisfying glory.
The cabbage and kohlrabi slaw was inspired by a salad from Plenty, which is also based on cabbage and kohlrabi. But, by the time I was finished with my monkeying, it had a rather different flavor profile. His has dried cherries, which I didn’t have around, so I used dried cranberries instead. Then I swapped out grassy dill – which I didn’t fancy as a pairing for tart cranberries – and replaced it with sweet, soothing mint. I added a sprinkling of scallions and fragrant lemon zest, then tossed it all with a honey-lemon-mustard dressing.
This salad is amazing! It’s about as fresh and spunky as a salad can get! It gives you the sense of languidly drinking a cool glass of lemonade and crunching on a crudités platter, all rolled into one delectable experience. It made me want to grab the bowl plus a checkered blanket and go eat outside under a shady tree.
The flounder was the result of my non-specific texted missive to Joel to ‘please pick up something seafood-y for dinner, maybe not salmon this time.’ I had no clue what to expect, but we found ourselves with flounder.
And, friends, I am a newly minted flounder convert. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly sustainable, so we won’t be having it often. But, it’s quite a lovely fish. Its flesh is firm and silky, and almost sweet in flavor. (However, beware of overcooking, or it turns as rubbery as a shoe sole.)
I prepared it in one of the simplest and best ways I know how for fish, a quick searing in a hot oven to cook it through faster than it can lose its moisture – be attentive during this process so as to not let it tip over the overcooked precipice – and an even quicker pan sauce, a luxurious pool of olive oil and butter, perfumed with garlic and thyme and brightened with lemon juice.
The peas, now that I think about it, were the real odd man out in this meal. But, the other two dishes were both so tangy and light, the earthy flavors of the peas were a welcome contrast, the different point of view that we needed to hear.
You could make the three together, or you could pair any of the three with other dishes of your choosing. And, don’t worry too much about planning – as long as each piece tastes good, it’ll work out.
Cabbage and Kohlrabi Slaw with Cranberries (serves about 4)
- 1 large kohlrabi, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (this was about 1/2 of a medium-large cabbage)
- 1/2 cup (loosely packed) dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (just the white and light green parts)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- the zest of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbs. lemon juice
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 Tbs. brown mustard
- 1/2 Tbs. honey
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, toss together the kohlrabi, cabbage, cranberries, scallions, lemon zest, and mint.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, and honey, until well combined. Toss this with the cabbage mixture.
- Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
Flounder with lemon-garlic pan sauce (serves 4)
- salt and pepper
- 1.25-1.5 lbs. of flounder filets (or other mild-flavored white fish)
- a small handful of garlic scapes or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 Tbs. butter
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 Tbs. minced fresh thyme
- Preheat your oven to 425F. Pat the fish filets dry, then sprinkle them with salt and pepper and put them in a baking pan.
- Roast the filets just until they flake easily with a fork. Mine took just under 10 minutes, but this depends on the thickness of the filets, so it requires some vigilance. Then remove them from the oven.
- While the fish is roasting, heat the olive oil and butter in a small sautee pan until the butter is foaming. Stir in the garlic, or garlic scapes, and cook for 1-2 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Then swirl in the lemon juice and thyme. Take off the heat and set aside.
- When the fish is done, transfer it to a serving platter (or just leave it in the pan, if you’re not going for fancy). Serve, and drizzle some of the lemon pan sauce over each portion.