Every now and then I cook for just myself, something like this warm spinach salad with pancetta vinaigrette, warm barley, toasted hazelnuts, an egg, with beautiful golden crowns of Delicata squash. It takes me back to my single days when I first learned to eat alone. For 47 years of my life there was family at my dinner table, and suddenly eating alone was such a hard thing. I had finally learned to enjoy it by the time this one particularly extraordinary guy came along.
What can I tell you about my this man, who became my husband? First, Scott is a never-ending source of puns that always make me laugh. He is really sweet with his mother, daughters, sons, grandchildren, my whole family, friends, grocery checkers, wait staff, dogs and cats, well, everyone. He always takes the generous view of (nearly) all people.
Going places with him is always a fun adventure.
We once hiked what seemed like 400-foot high sand dunes to visit the Oregon coastline. The wind was howling, it was raining, and my hikers were filled with sand. It had not been my favorite afternoon, and we still had to climb back over the dunes to get to our car. I was over it. He pulled out his phone, pretended to dial, and held the phone to his ear.
"Hello?" he said with a serous façade. "My wife is ready to have the helicopter pick her up and return her to the chateau. Twenty minutes? Great, thank you." Scott always knows how to make me laugh, and how to gently move my legs-- and my attitude-- in the right direction.
I could go on about how smart and good looking he is, too. But here's what you really need to know. At this moment one of Scott's most dearly beloveds is in long-term hospital care. She lives far away, and when he couldn't be at her side in the first days of her medical situation he was nearly beside himself. He has now spent a few weeks at her bedside helping her heal, with more time away from home to come. He has full-heartedly embraced the task of caregiving in the most beautiful way, with strength, humor, devotion, and hope.
So, this won't be the last time I make spinach salad with pancetta vinaigrette for one. I'll be doing more dining alone off and on for a time, while this amazing person I call my husband is away doing God's work of loving so well.
This pretty shoulder-season main-dish salad uses hearty curly spinach, the last of the winter Delicata squash in my vegetable basket, and some warm cooked barley, naturally gluten-free buckwheat groats, or farro. Warm salads are so satisfying during the spring and autumn season changes. This one is every bit as yummy to eat as it is lovely to look at.
Portland's James Beard award winning Joshua McFadden's book, Six Seasons; A New Way with Vegetables provides the inspiration for the pancetta vinaigrette. I divert from his recipe in a few places-- I use the olive oil and rendered pancetta to lightly wilt hearty spinach right in the pan. Sherry vinegar is my choice for this dish instead of red wine vinegar that Chef McFadden uses, and I add it just as the spinach is finished wilting in the pan. And, since I'm cooking for one, I reduce the overall ingredient quantities.
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