Ronnie Paul: Fresh holiday meal ideas | TheUnion.com

Ronnie Paul: Fresh holiday meal ideas

Ronnie Paul
Columnist

It's hard for me to let a ringing phone go unanswered. What if it's news of a free trip to Paris? What if I've won a prestigious literary prize?

Last week while I showered with pomegranate gel, the phone rang. Imagining fabulous news, I grabbed a towel and trailed watery streams to the bedside table that holds one of the only corded landlines in the county.

It was my brother calling to wish me a happy Thanksgiving. With water clogging my ear, I shouted into the receiver like I was yelling to a neighbor two acres away. Our Hungarian mother did this, so perhaps it's just built into my genetic make-up.

As I sat on the bed chatting, I noticed that I was beginning to sink into what was becoming a wet and pomegranate-scented frothy comforter.

Suddenly the cat, who moments earlier had been dozing listlessly on the floor, pranced across the bed with a live lizard in its mouth. I stomped my feet on the carpet — by now a tropical lagoon — but the cat didn't flinch.

After I hung up, I squished back to the bathroom, carefully avoiding the lizard darting its way across the floor.

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The phone rang the minute I got back in the shower. This time I let fantasies of fantastic fortune go down the drain.

I'm never lured elsewhere when I cook. Please try these recipes.

Holiday Kale Salad

Serves 3-4

Even the kale-shunner in my family gobbled this.

3 ounces kale leaves

2 tablespoons raisins

2 tablespoons dried cranberries

1 medium apple

1/4 cup toasted walnuts

Salt and pepper

Dressing:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Chop the kale and scrunch it in your hands until it feels soft. Toss with the dressing, cover tightly, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least a few hours.

To serve, toss the kale with the remaining ingredients.

Perfect Polenta

About 4 cups

Autumn comfort food — yes!

4 cups veggie broth

1 cup polenta

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Bring the broth to a boil. Slowly add the polenta, butter, and salt and pepper. Lower the flame and simmer. To avoid a brutal pot clean-up, stir frequently for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is thick and creamy.

Turn off the flame and stir in the Parmesan. Pour the mixture in a well-buttered 7×11-inch glass pan and let sit until firm.

Spinach Sauté

Serves 6-8

If you're wondering what to put over Perfect Polenta …

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup thinly sliced onion

10 ounces baby spinach

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper

1 recipe Perfect Polenta

2 ounces crumbled Feta

Heat the oil and garlic, add the onion and sauté for five minutes.

Add the spinach and sauté for 10 minutes more until the spinach wilts. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper and sauté one more minute. Squeeze out any remaining liquid.

Spread the spinach sauté on the polenta and top with the Feta.

Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

Ronnie Paul is a Nevada County freelance writer.