It wasn't a traditional birthday we were celebrating. It was better.
And he was embarrassed because we started singing happy birthday to him anyway and the whole restaurant chimed in.
I often find that in order to really celebrate something, we need to stick a candle in it, so here he was, covering his face with a pile of mama-made chocolate crinkle cookies in front of him, candle a'blaze.
"Make a wish!" We all said. He laughed and blew out his candle.
We were celebrating his first year sober since he was 17.
My younger brother, now 24.
I don't want to get into ugly details but I can tell you that the heart of his struggle with addiction was real and it was far from pretty. We are a tight knit family, so when one of us fell, it really felt like we were getting dragged through the mud with him.
There were fights and phone calls and lots of tears and even more questions.
Sometimes I feared I would get a phone call from my parents telling me my brother was dead. That's how crazy and unknown and crazy his struggle was.
When a person you love fights addiction, you don't really dare to hope that they'll ever come clean. I mean of course you want nothing more in the world, but it is just too stinking painful to hope.
So sitting there last night, in the seat across from him watching him laugh and clap his hands over his face and get embarrassed over a candle in a cookie, was pretty awesome.
I was listening to someone the other day who said we, (like the collective "we" as in people and human beings) don't celebrate enough. I loved that. In fact that's a big thing I want to drive home here, in this tiny blog space is to celebrate your life. Life is too short not to.
Celebrate getting through a really hard week at work, potty training, not saying one swear word all day, finishing one thing on your to-do list, eating a salad, running a mile - Celebrate all of it. The big stuff (like your brother's first year of sobriety) and the little stuff (surviving your first two weeks as a puppy parent) - but especially the little stuff. And if you can, stick a candle in it.
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Buttermilk + Creme Fraiche Dressing
dressing adapted from Bon Appetite, Serves 4 as a side salad
Salads. I know, what the heck do salads have to do with my story above? First, Salads are a great way to celebrate my brother's new found health.... and while salads are a far cry from a sweet treat, I am so excited to expand the repertoire of Sweetish by adding some nourishing, every day recipes... Why? I think it was a mix of feedback from you wonderful friends, and celebrating my brother that finally told me life is too short to hold off on what you want to give and do, so I've decided to share all the things.
I swear I can't tell you how many times I get asked if I eat anything other than dessert? (Straight face emoji.) Yes. The answer is yes, I am super in love with whole foods and I'm so looking forward to sharing some more of that goodness with you. Anything and everything good for your health, whether that be a chocolate chip cookie or a fresh-off-the-farmers-stand-salad, you can find here. So cheers to you and something a little new! I feel like we should celebrate. ;)
Bakers Note: Use fresh organic heirloom tomatoes if you can, they really steal the show here and are worth every penny. Burrata is worth the splurge too - if you can't find it goat cheese or soft mozzarella will work as well.
Special Equipment: A baby whisk is super helpful to make dressing.
for the salad:
2 large heirloom tomatoes
12 oz fresh burrata, torn
2 - 3 cups arugula
salt and pepper
for the dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 egg yolk
1 clove of garlic, minced
½ cup sunflower oil
2 tablespoons buttermilk
4 tablespoons creme fraiche
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk egg yolk with pinch of salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl or jar. Add garlic and buttermilk. Slowly whisk in olive oil in a steady stream until you get all ingredients emulsified. Gently whisk in creme fraiche.
Arrange sliced tomatoes and arugula on a platter. Top with blobs of burrata cheese and generous amounts of buttermilk dressing. Salt and fresh pepper to taste.
Peppery Arugula Salad with Lemon and Parmigiano-Reggiano
Inspired by Little Doms, Serves 4 as a side salad with dressing to spare.
When we starting talking about my love for food people always ask me what my favorite thing to make is. I never really know how to answer that, but I usually reply with "dressing". I know, so weird. But I love a good dressing. It's easy and makes all the difference in a good salad or sandwich. This one is inspired by one of my favorite restaurants, introduced to me by a best friend, Little Dom's in Los Feliz. They serve the simplest salad with just these ingredients. I amped it up a little with avocado and extra pepper, and guessed on the dressing. The ratio of lemon to olive oil is spot on (to me). I also have to say, while the original dressing doesn't call for it, a clove of minced garlic added is really good.
Bakers note: I scoop an avocado with an everyday spoon and plop the fresh goodness straight onto the salad. I feel the messiness of the scoops fit well with the simplicity of the salad. Less fuss more goodness. Also, splurge on the Parmigiano-Reggiano - with so few ingredients it's important each one is the best you can afford. ;)
for the salad:
4 - 5 cups arugula
¼ cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese (parmesean), shreds
1 ripe avocado
for the dressing:
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 clove of garlic, minced (optional)
Whisk the olive oil in a steady stream with the lemon juice, salt and pepper until emulsified. Set aside. You may need to whisk the dressing again slightly before adding it to your greens.
Shred cheese with a veggie peeler to achieve long shreds of cheese. If you don't have one, don't sweat it, graded cheese works beautifully too.
Toss arugula with dressing in a large bowl and top with cheese shreds and scoops of avocado, and plenty of fresh pepper. As suggested in instagram, top this salad with a fried egg and a side of crusty bread for breakfast.