Last week I was reminded of how good simple things are. This was odd, considering I was in a fairly complicated situation. I made dinner for my old youth pastor Syler, his wife Heidi, their four kids, a college freshman who attended his youth group when I was long gone, the scone recipe granting DeAnn, our friends and SOCRG members Cameron and Wendy, and their baby daughter Evelyn.
Syler, Heidi, and co. were in from Chicago for spring break, driving through town on their way from Austin to Dallas. I saw them Sunday when we all had brunch at Syler’s childhood home in Austin after running the famous Capital 10k with a couple of my best friends from high school/college and 20,000-odd other people. Normal.
Syler and Heidi have perhaps been the most consistent influences in my life for the past dozen years or so. (Hence hanging out with their extended family in Austin a decade after graduating from high school.) High school was a difficult time for me and Syler and Heidi’s steady compassion, voices of reason, and example were invaluable for my survival. I have watched them work hard to raise their children with wisdom and patience and fight to live simple lives in an affluent suburban town. Somehow their oldest daughter Kayla is now the age that I was when we met and she was a baby. Geeze.
I am no longer the early 2000’s emo teenager they tried to throw a line, nor even the ecumenical Protestant they last probably actually understood. However, over the years they have graciously transitioned to a more balanced, mutual friendship with me. Though we don’t always share the same exact beliefs as we used to (Syler is still a pastor at the non-denominational, Evangelical church I attended in high school), I will always respect and value Syler and Heidi’s perspective and friendship.
I think I was initially excited for them to meet my friends so they could see that some Catholics mean it. I wanted to say, look: Cameron and Wendy are raising their daughter with prudence, patience, discipline, and faith—just like you guys. DeAnn’s single like me, and look at how full and gracious her life is. What I’m doing can be done well, and I’m surrounded by a great community of living examples to help me do it. Look how great everyone is! Like I needed to prove it.
But that’s not even what happened. That’s not what needed to happen. We just enjoyed a simple meal with casual conversation. I didn’t have to show-and-tell; and I’m sure no one wanted me to. We talked about nothing particularly important and it wasn’t time to. It was time to enjoy each others’ company and marvel again over how tall the kids are. It felt so good to just introduce some important people in my life to some other important people in my life, share a little moment, and leave it at that.
The food was perfectly suited for this simplicity. There was abundant leftover pork tenderloin from the Annunciation Feast so I ended up having meals build on each other all week. It felt weirdly appropriate to serve SOCRG food to old friends–like I was sneakily facilitating a communion between the groups they didn’t even know about. I mean…not to get creepy. But, by welcoming Syler, Heidi, and co. into my home and at my table, I was welcoming them to participate tangibly in the adult life I have built and they’ve only been peripherally aware of for the past few years. Food can do that.
Besides the pork, I didn’t have time to make anything too complicated or extravagant after work so everything only had around five ingredients: roasted salmon for the Lenten fisheaters, yogurt sauce, red pepper rice, and crispy kale. There’s almost nothing to any of that. Simplicity! Here goes:
- Salmon (obvi)
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Preheat your oven to 425
- Prepare the salmon by rubbing both sides with olive oil, sprinkling with salt and pepper, and covering with very thinly sliced lemon.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes (in a pyrex), depending on your oven
- plain yogurt
- lemon juice (or lime or even vinegar if you don’t have citrus on hand)
- chopped cilantro (or mint or parsley or anything you’d like)
- salt and pepper
- Um…stir everything together.*
* Note: I have no idea about measurements in this recipe. It’s something you do by taste. Just spoon some yogurt in a bowl, sprinkle in salt and pepper, toss in a handful of chopped herbs, and squeeze in the juice. Add whatever wants adding. I live my life in the truth that you can never have too much cilantro. Also, you can put this on EVERYTHING–the salmon, the rice, the leftover pork tenderloin, your spoon, etc. Also-also, if you slice up a bunch of cucumbers with this sauce it makes a great salad side dish.
Red Pepper Rice
- Jasmine rice
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- a couple cloves of garlic, chopped
- the juice of one lemon
- lots of cilantro, chopped
- salt and pepper
- Make the rice according to the package directions
- Saute the diced red pepper and garlic in some olive oil until tender.
- When the rice is finished cooking, sprinkle with salt and pepper, squeeze in the lemon juice, add the cilantro and red pepper, and stir. NBD.
It is becoming painfully clear that I need to start writing down measurements and providing actual recipes. Also, taking more photos. So. It’s always good to have goals, I suppose.
PS: Don’t think I forgot about the kale. It’s just that I can’t write about kale without writing about my friend Jenny. Jenny loves kale as much as she loves bacon and that is saying something. She came over for the third back to back to back dinner that built on each other last week, so get ready for a Jenny dinner post in the near future.