And we're back!
I'll have a recap of my awesome vacation up as soon as I get the photos curated and all that, but in the meantime I'm just enjoying being home. After living out of a suitcase for three weeks, as delightful as those weeks were, there's something deeply satisfying about sleeping in one's own bed, cooking in one's own kitchen, and snuggling one's own cat (who feels grievously wronged after being abandoned for so long and demands ample restitution in snuggle form).
Speaking of cooking in one's own kitchen, I did a little grocery shopping in Paris on the way home and brought back some key produce items that are difficult or impossible to find in Guinea and that I have missed dearly over the last year and a half. Specifically, I picked up a butternut squash, some red onions, a fennel bulb, a pomegranate, some fresh mushrooms, and some celery. Just seeing this bounty nestled in my fridge makes my heart bubble over with happiness.
But now I have to figure out what to do with it all, and that's where I'm running into problems. There are just so many possibilities! Do I make the mushrooms into a ragu and put it on polenta, or make a risotto? Or do I stuff them? Or grill them? Or just saute them and put them on a steak? I could also make a risotto with the butternut squash, or a soup, or try out my new pasta roller with some squash ravioli. I could serve it cubed with maple glaze and rosemary. The fennel and pomegranate seeds will probably go on a salad, so that's sorted, unless I decide to make a salsa to put on a pork chop instead. The onions will last a while - I got a good 5 months from the batch I brought home from South Africa last year - and be served in various forms, including but not limited to salads and guacamole.
But the celery! I never appreciated celery before I moved to Guinea. It was just there, in the crisper drawer, next to the carrots. Rarely the featured ingredient in a dish, I never realized how often I used it until I couldn't get my hands on it for love or money. I cannot count the times I've been making chicken stock, or soup, or anything with a mirepoix, and thought, "if only I had some celery!" But now that I have a whole pound of pale green goodness in my fridge I suddenly can't think of a single thing to do with it that properly honors this vital vegetable. Ants on a log has been suggested, and it's not such a bad idea. Maybe I'll just cut it into sticks and dip it in ranch dressing, savoring the crisp crunch with every bite. That sounds pretty great actually.