Every night, after bath and pajamas and the wrangling that is brushing a willful two-and-a-half year old's teeth, Theo and I go into his room, dim the lights and get ready for sleep. I sit down in the rocking chair and he squeezes in beside me, holding two books. I wrap my arms around him and we read, usually punctuated with me repeatedly kiss the top of his head. Theo always asks for 'one more book,' and sometimes I oblige. But most often, I'll tell him it's bedtime. So he jumps into my lap to delay sleep for just a little longer, for snuggles, bedtime prayers and a song or two.
I'll ask him, "Do you want to say prayers tonight, or do you want me to?"
Lately, he answers, "Why don't I say prayers and you help me?"
"Okay," I say. "Start with, 'Dear God.'"
"God?" Theo asks. "Where's God?"
"God is love. God is everywhere."
"God is love? God is everywhere?"
"Yes," I say. "God is kindness. Do you want to tell God what you're grateful for?"
"Yes! I'm grateful for Sarah!" (Sarah is our amazing nanny. We are grateful for her, too.)
We go on to name people and pets we are grateful for. We thank God. We ask God to watch over us and our family and to keep us safe and healthy. Amen.
Theo always says, "Amen! Almonds, almonds."
I always laugh.
I've been saying prayers with Theo every night since he was born, and just lately, he seems to have a glimmer of understanding about what prayer might mean. This journey to prayer is a delicate one in our home, because of the different value and belief systems that Elie and I each bring to faith. We are still figuring out how to approach what we teach or model to Theo, but we agreed that a practice of gratitude spans all spiritual paths, so that's where we have begun.
Next week, we leave for Israel, our first trip there with Theo. I have been feeling very emotional lately about taking him to this place that both Elie and I love and cherish, for both similar and different reasons. I can't wait to take Theo to the Mount of Beatitudes. When I am there, I sit in the garden, under the eves of church overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and I am in awe. Being there always brings to me tears. Although I know God is everywhere, it is the place where I most strongly feel His presence.
I don't know how or when we will begin to share our faith beliefs with Theo. Perhaps on this trip. But I do know I am happy to be taking him to this country we both love, to meet his family there and to bask in the beauty and undeniable energy and vitality of this place.
I am sharing this recipe just in time for you to use the very last of the deep red tomatoes and peppers that still hang on the vines, or stand out against the orange and yellow squash and pumpkins beginning to appear at the famers market. I have been thinking about this salad as we prepare to leave for Israel, how it will taste on our first morning, when we stumble out to get coffee and our first breakfast of the trip.
Breakfast in Israel is a vegetable affair, always with a version of this Israeli salad and typically accompanied by olives, goat or sheep milk cheese and good bread. If you want to follow along with our trip, I will be posting regularly to Instagram and Instagram stories. Be forewarned: the photos will make you hungry!
We are traveling to Israel with our good friends, Mataio and Jessica Gillis and their two boys. Mataio and Jessica are the owners of Ciao Thyme, and when we return, we will be doing a dinner and a cooking class based on all of the delicious things we eat on our trip. If you are in the Bellingham area, you won't want to miss it! You can sign up here for the dinner on November 2 and here for the class on November 6.
And now, for the recipe. This salad is very forgiving. Just adjust the proportion of vegetables to your liking, as well as the ratio of salt, lemon juice and olive oil. In my humble opinion, the beauty of this salad is in keeping it fresh and simple, not adding to many different herbs or spices or onions or garlic or anything else overwhelming. That being said, a little mint tossed in there can be a nice addition. And I've been known to crumble in a good feta.
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
2 red peppers
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 - 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
sea salt, to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes
zest and juice of two small lemons (about 1/4 cup lemon juice)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cut the cherry or grape tomatoes in halves or quarters and add them to a large salad bowl. Stem and seed the red peppers and dice, about the same size as the cut tomatoes. Add to the bowl. Peel the cucumber and cut it in half, lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and compost the seeds. Dice the cucumber, about the same size as the other vegetables. Add to the bowl, along with the chopped parsley and sunflower seeds. Season with sea salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes and stir all together.
Zest the lemons over the vegetables and then juice the lemons and add about 1/4 cup lemon juice over the vegetables. Add the olive oil. Stir and taste for seasoning, adjusting salt, lemon or olive oil as needed.
This salad is best served fresh, at room temperature.
Photographs by Matthew Land Studios