Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Dad's an Octogenarian!! Happy Birthday Daddy - Auntie Nora's Asparagus Vinaigrette

To look at my father you would never believe he is 80 years old.  He does not look 80, and he sure does not act it!!  People are often shocked when I tell them his age, as they usually gage him to be somewhere in his 60s.

The last 8 years have been hard on our family, with the slow and agonizing loss of Mom to Alzheimer's Disease.  We have had to rebuild our lives and, in some respects, start anew.  No-one has had to do this more than Dad.  He has lost his life partner and best friend.  

Not a day goes by that we don't talk about Mom, reminisce and remember life as it was when she was well and "making our home".  Mom always said that the woman makes the home, setting the standard for the family.  Looking back now, I see that was true - she set the tone of the house, as did her mother and grandmother before her.  I can feel that tie that binds me to them, as I have assumed the role of matriarch of this family, carrying their standards forward into the next generation.  I would compare it to osmosis, it just seems to filter down through the generations, from mother to daughter.  

There are no words to express the overwhelming happiness that I feel when I see our daughters, young as they may be, already demonstrating those same standards and values.  Their recognition of the importance of family, and the binding force of food almost seems innate.  And then on Sunday, as I was preparing the final dishes for Dad's dinner, Sara came in and took over, making the vinaigrette for our asparagus (thank you!!!).  She took her 4-year-old cousin Abby by the hand, and patiently guided her through each step.  Oh, how Mom would have kvelled (burst with pride and happiness), I know I did.

So, that brings me to today's post...Dad's 80th.

At first, Davie and I were thinking of a party - Mom had wanted to throw one for Dad's 75th, but life was so challenging back then that I could not think about preparing and catering for a large group.  Looking back I wish I had found the energy to do it, as it would have been the last party for her.  But regret is useless, so I try to move forward and forgive my own shortcomings in the same way I know she would have forgiven them.  But Dad did not want a party - he said that all he wanted was to be surrounded by the people he loves most in this world - us!

What to do?  We thought about taking him out to a fancy restaurant for a decadent meal - not such an easy task, remember - he observes Kashruth, so that limited our choices...

And then it hit me, as he was raving (which he NEVER does) over my Zharkoye (beef stew - Russian style).  These days a luxury for my father is a home-cooked meal that takes him back to a time when it was commonplace, when Mom made dinners all the time and we took for granted the idea that she always would.

No one cooks like Mom did, but they say that I rank a close second, and I am the only one carrying the recipes and traditions forward.  So I suggested it to Davie, and he agreed - a home cooked meal, surrounded by his immediate family was the way to go.

Now that we had settled the what and where, it was time to figure out a menu - always a sad moment for me because I don't have Mom to bounce dishes and ideas off of anymore.  For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you will remember that I am not a fan of meat, but all the men, Becca and Abby are, and one of their all-time favourites is a rib roast.  So, naturally, dinner was built around the rib roast.  And a Baba Dora salad (Baba Dora being his mom!).  But what else?  Lena is vegetarian, Sara is allergic to fish, I prefer chicken and so does Sara...hmmm...the rest are pretty easygoing...

I rounded out dinner with a cherry tomato pasta (sans the cheese), Baba Ethel Roasted Potatoes, roasted chickpeas, Sara's garlic bread and  Auntie Nora's Asparagus Vinaigrette (another family favourite from Mom's best friend and our adopted aunt - Nora).

Dinner was a success, the roast was devoured, and, most importantly, we were together and Dad was happy.

Oh, and for dessert - homemade birthday cake, of course!

I hope you enjoy Auntie Nora's Asparagus Vinaigrette as much as we all do, but you're on your own as far as preparation goes, Sara's all mine!  Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food!  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Auntie Nora's Asparagus Vinaigrette

  • ½C olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tbsp red wine vinegar (I am allergic to red wine and use white vinegar)
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ freshly ground pepper
  • minced parsley and/or snipped chives (to taste)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs (chopped)
  • asparagus (ends snipped off)

Method - Asparagus:
Parboil the asparagus until they are barely tender.  Drain and immediately place into ice water to stop the cooking process.  Drain asparagus and set out on plate/platter (with a lip) to serve.  Shortly before serving, drizzle asparagus with vinaigrette and garnish with chopped egg.

Method - Vinaigrette:
Measure mustard into bowl.  Whisk in vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and herbs.  Continue to whisk, while slowly dribbling in olive oil.  ** This should be made just before using, but it can be stored (via leftovers) in refrigerator for a few days.  

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