“But Mom…everyone is going to be there,” she says to you, not in an overly-emotional way but matter-of-factly,…slowly,…tinged with disappointment. (Almost echoing her younger brother’s cries from the week before, “But Mom…everyone has one.”) And you feel for her, you do. And channeling your 13-year-old-self, you know that you would want to be there too. But alas, you’re not 13. You are a parent now. And sometimes this role of “parent” feels overwhelming. You feel a bit weary from constantly trying to guide your children into knowing what’s appropriate to wear, to do, to say, to partake in, to buy. Knowing when to open the door just a little wider for them. And when to keep it pulled shut. And it’s in those instances of feeling in your heart that the door should remain shut while your child is begging to open it more, that become the most trying. Especially, when it feels to her, that “everyone else’s” doors have been opened.
And so you agonize…for days. Trying to make the right decision for this particular situation. At this particular age. In this particular decade. You call friends. You email other parents. You call more friends. You stay up late talking to your sweetie. And you remember back to when your father…or perhaps it was your mother…wisely said to you that as a parent you can only lay down the foundation. How the house gets built is up to your child. And so you check the foundation. You gather all the facts at hand. You summon up your own 40+ years of life experience and….you open the door just a little wider for your child.
After delivering her safely into the hands of another caring parent who has struggled with the same decision, you stare at the clock. You tick off in your mind where she should be when. In an effort to keep your mind from running amok with all of the “What if?” scenarios involving your daughter, you check on your littlest one, move away from the clock and then, curl up on the couch with your sweetie and your 11-year old to watch a favorite show.
Sunday evening finds you all gathered around the kitchen table for your family dinner. The family dinner you always spice up just a little bit more than the usual weeknight meal. The warm, comforting smell of caramelized onions still lingers in the house even after the Pita Pizza appetizers topped with those onions have been devoured. All five of you now sit with steaming bowls of White Bean and Sausage Cassoulet in front of you and plates of salad greens, fennel and blue cheese to the side. You talk about your weekend. The football game. The lego “Skype date.” The blustery weather. And in talking about the weekend, you realize that in your daughter’s life, this opening of the door registered barely a ripple for her. And in a way, you almost feel relieved. Because in some strange way, this lack of jubilance, makes you feel like it was the right time to open the door.
Your boys are upstairs, all three of them, and you stand in the kitchen with your daughter. Both of you scraping the bottom of your goblets trying to mop up the last little bits of your Gingersnap-Caramel Pear Parfaits. Your daughter looks up from her goblet and says to you, “Thank you for letting me go……and thank you for wanting to keep me safe.” And you look right at her and say, “Thank you for letting me do my job to keep you safe. You are so precious to me. I love you, sweetie.” And she says, “I love you, too.” And with that, you put the empty goblets in the dishwasher and set your mind on the week ahead.
Pita Pizzas with Caramelized Onions, Dried Cherries and Gruyère
I know that I’ve talked about Pam Anderson before, here and here, because she is the author of one of my all time favorite cookbooks, “How to Cook Without a Book.” The other weekend, when I was in San Francisco, I had the incredible opportunity to meet in person not only Pam but her two delightful daughters as well. The three of them author the blog, “Three Many Cooks” and just recently Pam released a new cookbook entitled, “Perfect One-Dish Dinners.” When she and her daughters asked some of us if we would cook from the book and then post a favorite dish, I didn’t hesitate. How could I possibly refuse one of my all time favorite cookbook authors?
As I mentioned above in my little narrative, I made from her book the Pita Pizzas, her Cassoulet-Style Italian Sausages and White Beans, her Baby Greens with Fennel, Blue Cheese and Red Onion and for dessert, her decadent, Gingersnap-Caramel Pear Parfaits. Each one was scrumptious in its own right but the clear winner in our family (including a stray neighbor boy who was over playing legos) was the Pita Pizzas…although, the Pear Parfaits were a very close second. With the holidays on the horizon, I can’t wait to set these appetizers out for guests. I can see mixing it up and using dried cranberries instead of the cherries or bits of browned pancetta. I did not soak the cherries in the kirsch since most of my “audience” was the under-21 bunch but I did add the cherries to the onions at about the 8 minute mark to soften them up.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced. (I used one of Oregon’s Hermiston Sweet onions.)
3/4 dried cherries
2 tbsp kirsch (cherry brandy)
4 large (7-inch) pocket-less pitas (These are thicker than ordinary ones.)
2 c grated aged Gruyère cheese (about 5 oz.)
Adjust rack to lower-middle position (in my oven, the middle position worked best) and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. And onion and cook, stirring frequently, until caramel brown, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat cherries and kirsch in a small saucepan over low heat until cherries soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Or, to do what I did, skip this last step and add your cherries directly to the onions when the onions have about 2-3 minutes left to cook.
Scatter a portion of onions and cherries over each pita, then scatter over cheese. Bake until cheese melts and crust is golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes. Cut each pita into 8 triangles and serve immediately.
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010