This post is written in honour of good neighbours. May you all have some. And if you don’t, may you find some quickly. Or may you consider moving.
The neighbourhood I grew up in on the south side of Chicago was a busy one. West 89th Place and its adjoining streets was rarely quiet. There were kids. Lots and lots of them. And boy did we have fun.
The summers were spent playing baseball in the park across the street. When Autumn arrived and the fall leaves piled onto our backyards, outdoor hide n’ seek kept us busy for hours.
And when the fierce Chicago snow storms forced schools to close, many an afternoon were spent building snow forts to protect us from the wrath of Big Timmy’s right-arm pitch. Man could that kid lob a snowball. Word to the wise: pint-sized half Asians do not fare well in snowball wars. You think Ralphie and Randy had it bad in the 1983 hit A Christmas Story? Puhlease. Being stuck in the snow was the least of our worries during our snow fights. And we didn’t even have a neighbourhood bully.
Ah. The good ol’ days. Just watching this clip brings back hilarious memories.
We certainly had fun. But it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realised the solidarity of our neighbourhood went beyond the innocent excitement of childhood games. The adults, particularly my parents and my neighbours across from us, were great friends. They took care of one another. They shared sugar, eggs and milk like it was part of a neighborhood commune. They made Christmas cookies for one another. They rotated babysitting efforts (with three kids each this was a lot to ask) so that Christmas shopping could get done effortlessly.
We were more than just neighbours. We were friends. And yes, we are all Facebook friends now.
Our first year in Basel, we had a similar connection with several of our neighbours. Personalities clicked straight away, and before I realised what was happening I was living back on West 89th Place. I could send Aidan to play with the other kids so that I could clean my house in peace, I lost track of who borrowed what from whom, and absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, beat those late afternoon Friday texts enticing me upstairs for an early happy hour and barbeque. Hello prosecco. Goodbye dinner preparation.
During these frequent get togethers my neighbour Michelle always managed to whip up fantastic spreads. Glass of red in one hand, spoon in another, all the while engaged in stimulating conversation. Ladies and Gents, it can be done!
This cauliflower tabbouleh salad would not be part of my life had it not been for her. As far as healthy goes, this tops the list. Best of all. It’s SO easy to make.
First: Head of cauliflower. Chop into floretts, rinse, and throw in a food processor. Turn it on and pulse until the cauliflower is grain-like. Empty into a large bowl.
Next: A few herbs. Grab a large handful each of both mint and parsley. Rinse, finely chop, and dump into the bowl.
Next on the list: Tomatoes. A lot of them. The good, ripe kind. I prefer cherry or grape, but this salad is very accommodating. Chop any way you like (I prefer them fine), and add them to the bowl.
Nearly there. Toss in about a half cup of finely chopped almonds (smash it in a mortar or use a food processor, again). Then, in a small bowl, whisk together some minced garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and a bit of salt and pepper. Add to bowl, stir well, cover, and keep it in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. I try and make this during the afternoon to give the flavours time to blend before dinner.
To my neighbour Michelle, who has since moved back to the states: Thank you for introducing both this dish, and your family, into our lives. We miss your food, your family, and of course, your Friday happy hours at home. Having a glass of prosecco at 5pm on a Friday is just not the same, mostly because I’m usually alone during this time!
Thank you for bringing my childhood memories back to life. Please come visit soon so we can build a snow fort together.
- 1 small head of cauliflower
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 large bunch fresh mint
- 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley
- 1 green onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- juice of one lemon, plus 1/2 the zest
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 to 1 tsp salt to taste
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/2 cup raw almonds
- Rinse and cut cauliflower into florets. Place in bowl of food processor and pulse until cauliflower has grain-like texture. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Finely chop mint, parsley, green onions and tomatoes. Add to the bowl and combine.
- Smash almonds with mortar or pulse in food processor. Add to bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over salad and mix well.
- Can be eaten immediately, but if you have time cover and rest in the refrigerator for a few hours to allow flavours to set.