Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Luminarias and Good Luck

Last year, I set a few luminarias in front of our house at Christmas, and while the kids ooh-ed and aah-ed, I told them how, when my parents lived in Pennsylvania, the whole neighborhood put out luminarias (I did have enough foresight to omit mentioning that I once went rollerblading down the darkened streets, which cars would cruise along with their lights off, so that I could enjoy the luminarias while flying along in near silence). In telling the kids about it, I didn’t quite foresee the extremely foreseeable consequence, which was that both kids would jump up and down and ask to do luminarias on as much of our block as was humanly possible. We made it about halfway down the block. They decided, that the next time we would (and I was thinking: "We? Next time? Why didn't I see this coming?") do the whole block.
So yesterday, we manufactured, set out and lit about 220 luminarias (and the kids were involved in almost every step, both helping and "helping"); I was lucky that my parents and husband were around, and all willing to help. It’s hard to believe (particularly when one is in the middle of folding up a bunch of the things so they don't lean over the candle and catch on fire) that a bunch of paper bags with candles in them could create something so serenely, transfixingly lovely, but… it does. And when there’s a long, flickering line of them... it wasn’t hard to see why the kids wanted to get the whole block.

We ate dinner by candlelight, with the window blinds open, so that we could see the luminarias outside, and the candles in, all at once. I briefly lived in Italy, and I loved the fixed, ritual nature of vigil night meals, each with their own specific dishes and traditions. However, long ago I decided to interpret the traditional New Year's lentil dish as simply lots of little things for good fortune, so we had a lemon-y, olive-flecked orzo salad with broiled (it sounds better to say grilled, but broiled is more accurate) halibut. There were a couple of other things (orange and fennel salad, an apple galette), all things that I could make in my sleep (which I just about was, after hefting around 150 pounds of sand and all those luminarias, albeit with help), but still just enough to make it feel like a little bit of a party.

We rang in the new year on east coast time, and after a long day of lugging and lighting, went promptly to sleep. May 2008 bring you joy.

Good luck lemon-y orzo salad.
1 box orzo
zest of 2 lemons
12-20 oil cured black olives, pitted and coarsely torn or chopped
fresh squeezed lemon juice
minced garlic, 1-4 cloves (to taste)
6-12 mint leaves, torn or chopped
olive oil, about twice as much as lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

bring water to boil for orzo. salt it generously when it comes to a boil; add orzo when it comes back to a boil. cook until al dente.
While water is coming to a boil, make a vinaigrette with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Adjust amounts to taste.
When orzo is cooked, add to the vinaigrette. Stir in the mint and garlic. Taste and adjust.
We like to eat this hot, but it's good at room temperature, as well.

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