A Letter From Lisbon

A few months ago, a man named Paulo sent me an email that was so long I had to scroll five pages to read it all. The email contained a dozen thick, rambling paragraphs that, by all appearances, listed the best food from his homeland, Portugal. The frequent spouting of Portuguese words peppered the email like a refrain in a pop song, but – considering I know no Portuguese – they halted the flow of my busy scanning. As my natural reading pace slowed, I began to really soak in what he was saying. My face inched closer to the screen.

This wasn’t a story of Portuguese food – not entirely. Laced delicately between the lines was a love story of two cultures uniting: Portuguese Paulo and his French wife, and the multicultural food they shared on their wedding table. Of all the dishes they included on their buffet, the one that stood out was the tuna and chickpea salad, or Atum com Grão. As salads go, the mix sounded incredibly nutritious, and – to be honest – rather stinky to serve at a wedding. “These people must really be in love,” I thought, smiling at the idea of a bride walking around with fishy, oniony breath, greeting people at her reception.

I closed the email, pulled up Google and hunted through miles of internet until I found a few versions of the salad I liked. That very night I made it. The whole thing took less than 15 minutes (although, had I been willing to wait 30 minutes for the flavors to mingle, the process would still float in under the hour mark) and the recipe made enough to snack on for lunch the next two days.

This time of year we hear a lot about salads and health food, but the season isn’t right for much of this. Certainly, the pallid greens and flabby tomatoes don’t do much to encourage gung-ho “resolutionists” to stick to their diets. But this Atum com Grão? This is a winter salad. All the ingredients are available and fresh in January, especially the winter-fruiting lemon that slides through the chickpeas. She’s as worthy of your attention as a dance solo at the ballet.

So, thanks to Paulo and his wife, while everyone else is busy scratching their weights on post-it notes above the scales, I’ll spend the first part of 2013 hunkered down over this winter salad dressed with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and golden pools of olive oil. After all, what good is the New Year if you can’t go a little wild?

Sasha Martin is cooking one meal for every country in the world. Her picky husband and baby girl are along for the ride. Join the adventure for recipes, reviews and more at www.globaltableadventure.com.

Comments