When I was growing up my family had a cabin near Truckee in Lake Tahoe. It sat in a little neighborhood with lots of winding streets that eventually made their way down to a lake. Michael and I had been dating for a few months when we made our first trip up there.
Here we are on that very first trip. This is not even 3 years old, how come it already looks so old?
During that trip, Michael and I were walking Eli around the lake asking each other random questions, probably trying to get to know each other better. Somewhere in the conversation the question came up, ‘if you could go back to one time of your life, just for one day, when would it would it be?’
My answer, a Sunday night when I was 16 or 17. Specifically for one of my family’s Sunday night dinners.
When I was growing up Sunday night dinners were really special. Regardless of what sports we were playing or youth group meetings we had to get to, Sunday night dinners were mandatory. We were expected to be there, no friends, no neighbors and the TV, which during the week was always tuned to the news at dinnertime, was shut off.
It was a time for our family to come together, to eat and visit without distraction. My dad always made something special and during the winter, the heat from the stove would steam up the windows and the sliding glass door, making it feel like that kitchen was the center of the universe.
I can’t recall if I treasured those dinners while they were happening but when I look back now I feel an immense sense of safety, satisfaction and happiness surround me. Our little family unit was still intact, long before life and illness got it’s grubby little hands on it. If I could have one day, I’d like to go back to one of those dinners. Sit with my dad for a while, ask him a million questions, eat his food, give him a hug, clean up the millions of dirty dishes and revel in a moment when all felt right with the world.
In reality I know there’s no way to actually go back so I’m doing the next best thing by tricking my senses with food.
One of my favorite side dishes was only prepared on Sundays: boiled artichokes with secret sauce. His secret sauce was originally made with a raw egg as the base. When we were growing up people weren’t as concerned about salmonella or maybe my dad just wasn’t, so we ate raw eggs in everything. Today, the idea sort of grosses me out.
This recipe is a play on that sauce. It actually has such a similar flavor profile that when I first made it I called my sister to tell her what I’d done, like it was some amazing feat. I replaced the egg with miso and added a tiny pinch of cayenne instead of black pepper because I prefer it, otherwise, this is pretty darn close to the original recipe.
I’ve since made this sauce at least five times. It’s great over a huge kale and zucchini salad or a bowl of lentils but my favorite pairing is still with freshly boiled artichokes. Make a big bowl of the sauce and dunk leaf by leaf until you get to the best part, the heart.
Miso Mustard Sauce aka Secret Sauce (vegan, gluten-free)
2 tbsp miso paste
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard, our version always included Grey Poupon but other Dijons would probably work just as well
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
1.5 tsp minced garlic
big squeeze of lemon juice
dash of cayenne
1 tbsp of water to thin
Add all ingredients except water to a small bowl. Stir to combine. Once ingredients are mixed together slowly add a bit of water at a time.
The sauce should coat the back of a spoon.
If you’re making artichokes to go with the sauce, cut the spiny tops of the leaves. Bring a pot of water to boil with a good amount of salt. Place artichokes in the water and boil for 30-35 minutes.
To test whether the artichokes are done, turn one upside down. Pierce a knife through the bottom. If it slides in easily you’re good to go.
Tonight I’ll be enjoying this sauce for a sixth time in a week and a half and thinking of my Papa and my family.
Enjoy and Exhale!