Lordes sat down in her assigned aisle seat on the plane. Truthfully, she fell into it. As she stepped out of the aisle, her toe snagged the seat in front of her and she all but toppled in, shoulder first. Elegant, refined, she thought to herself with an outward grunt. She twisted until her butt was firmly in the seat and let out a sigh of relief.
There was, then, a timid tap on her left shoulder. Lordes glanced to her left and came face to face with the round, chubby face of a drooling baby, gender undetermined. The baby’s anxious-looking mother, held the baby by the waist and let the little feet tap tap tap on her thighs. “I’m just going to apologize ahead of time,” the woman said, her face twisted in anguish. She had a thick accent, reminiscent of Georgia where Lordes had spent the last four days in the ballroom of a Garden Inn Suites. “For my baby. My husband was supposed to fly with me but he got offered first class and it’s his birthday so I thought it would be nice for him. But now I’m sitting here by myself, with my baby, and I don’t know how loud she’s going to be.” She, then. The bald baby grinned at her. “And my friend told me I should make these packets, like with ear plugs and granola bars and stuff and hand them out and apologize to people but I didn’t have time to do that! Because she was fussing really late last night and I was going to get up early to do it but I was too tired-“
Lordes held up a hand to stop her. She slid the sunglasses off her face and looked the terrified woman in the eye. “Listen, lady. I just worked sixteen straight days without a day off. Three conferences in Jacksonville, Charlotte and Atlanta. I’m taking this flight to Houston and from there, I am going somewhere where they serve drinks in those coconuts with umbrellas. I am not planning on speaking to anyone for eight glorious days. It’s the first vacation I’ve taken in three and a half years. I do not care if your baby screams starting now to when we land. I don’t care if it takes a dump or smacks me upside the face. Your baby,” she said deliberately, “is not a half-in-the-bag asshole sales rep who’s itching to pat me on the butt and tell me to fetch him a scotch and soda, so your baby can basically do whatever it wants to do. And when that lovely stewardess-“
“Right. When she comes by with that cart, I am pouring myself the biggest glass of wine in the galaxy and I am getting one for you too. And we are going to toast and then I’m taking this pill,” Lordes held it up, “And I will see y’all next Tuesday.”
Hola from Mexico! (I hope. I’m supposed to leave 2 days from now and this tropical storm/multiple lightning symbols on the Weather Channel app is giving me minor heart palpitations. But hopefully! When you are reading this! Mexico!) I love food and I love blogging and I love you but I did not take my laptop with me on this trip. My phone is operating as a very fancy camera only. The only time I will be checking email is to tell my parents I arrived safely (hopefully!) and if I happen to fall in love/marry the Benecio del Toro of Mexico. You feel me, right? You get what I’m laying down? I know you do.
Nicole sent me the recipe for this Summer Caprese Salad with a note that said “winging it.” I mean, listen- it’s salty pancetta, sweet melon and cheese. The drizzle is something fun but we can’t fail here. I made something very similar before I left and it’s perfect for this time of year, just what you want.
Summer Caprese Salad
Serves: 6 | Summer Caprese Salad
1 small cantaloupe, cut into bite size pieces
3/4 pound bite-sized mozzarella balls
1/4 pound pancetta, sliced thin
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1/2 Tbsp butter
Coarse salt and ground pepper
- Crisp the pancetta: Preheat oven to 400°. Place pancetta slices on baking pan and bake for about 5 minutes until pancetta slices are curled and crispy. Keep an eye on them as they may be done cooking before 5 minutes.
- Make the balsamic reduction: Place balsamic vinegar in small saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until reduced to 2 tablespoons (about 5 minutes).
- Toast the pine nuts: Melt butter in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add pine nuts and cook stirring often until pine nuts are lightly toasted.
- Assemble salad: In a large bowl, combine cantaloupe and mozzarella. Crumble pancetta into salad and top with toasted pine nuts and balsamic reduction. Finish with a sprinkle of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.
She found the first letter on the first day, the day they handed her the keys. She wandered around the big empty rooms and found the little envelope taped to the outside of a kitchen cabinet, the one closest to the sink. She pulled it down and slid the paper out of the envelope. The paper was a little too big for its holder and she had to all but wrench it out. She thought it would be instructions or a note about the kitchen. But the paper read just one line. I didn’t want to leave.
It haunted her, that first letter. She figured it was from the seller, a man she didn’t know and had never met. The movers called then and beckoned her outside to receive them. She tried to put the letter out of her mind.
She found the second letter tucked behind a door on the second floor. Same envelope. She opened it with some trepidation. The paper read just one line. I left. Disturbed, she crumpled the paper into her fist and, with no trash cans yet unpacked, stuffed it into her pocket to get rid of it later.
The third letter, attached to the basement railing. I can’t go on, it read. She wondered about him. She said a silent prayer.
The fourth and final letter was on a window in the bedroom that would be hers. Her hand was trembling by now. She pulled the paper from its temporary home and read the words aloud, on a single, relieved breath. I’ll go on.
I am 33 years old and in two months, I’ll be 34. I’m not a superstitious person but, maybe I am at heart, because I do believe 3 is something of a magical number. It’s present in all of my favorite (humor- the rule of threes) and least favorite things (tragedy- the rule of threes). Regardless of the number’s power, this has been a year for me. I’ve changed more in this year than I have in many, many years previously. A swirling, tight ball of change- that’s me, this year. This morning, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and just stared.
I’ve decided to share a few of the things I’ve learned this year, with you. Here’s the first one: so many people spend their whole, entire lives coloring firmly within the lines. It’s amazing that a simple word has so much power- should. It’s become my least favorite word, this year. Should is rife with judgement. It has such little bearing on you, or me. But it’s safe and so we stay safely cocooned within it walls, its lines.
Here’s to a dish that we made ourselves, inspired by one of Nicole’s restaurant journeys and picked by me because it sounded simple, fresh and good. Stacked, it’s perfectly beautiful. Once you start to pick at it, it falls apart, just slumps into a beautiful mess. (You can still eat it though, don’t worry. I’m starting to think that it’s the messiest things that taste the best.)
Heirloom Tomatoes with Lemon Ricotta and Arugula
Serves 4 | Print Recipe
6 Medium heirloom tomatoes
1 Cup of arugula
2/3 Cup of ricotta
1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1/4 Teaspoon of sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper
1. Slice the heirloom tomatoes in thick slices and set aside.
2. Dress the arugula with enough olive oil to lightly coat the leaves.
3. Mix ricotta, lemon juice, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
4. To serve, layer ricotta and tomato slices on a plate and top with arugula. Serve with warm bread and extra salt and pepper if desired.
“This is really wonderful, Flo.”
Oh, please. No. It’s not. I can’t believe we’re eating it. “Thanks!”
“Yes. I love the chicken, Flo.”
Are you kidding? You’re kidding, right? The chicken is dry, the salad is too sharp, I used too much cheese in the pasta salad. I’m actually shocked you’re all eating it and haven’t stormed out of here. Was that an eye roll? Did Kay just roll her eyes? She’s an amazing cook, she knows everything on this table is oversalted and overcooked. The gig is up. “That’s so nice of you, thanks!”
“You’ll have to give me the recipe for all of this!”
You mean the recipe for the chicken, the recipe that’s so vague and poorly written that I spent thirty minutes trying to figure out what ‘vapor the chicken’ means and then threw off the whole schedule to get the rest of the dinner party menu on the table at the same time? All for a chicken that’s so dry and tasteless, I can use it to plaster the guest room? That recipe! “Sure! I’ll make you a copy!”
I just posted this on Instagram this morning, an excerpt from As Always, Julia which I’m rereading and loving just as much as the first time . It’s a collection of letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto that span Julia’s writing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (it’s not for everyone- if you can read a three page letter about the quality of kitchen knives in the 1950s with delight, then you will love it. And also, hi, we should be friends.)
In this particular letter, Julia lets out a random little rant about how annoying it is to be a guest at a dinner party and have to be constantly reassuring the hostess that the food she cooked is actually good:
“I make it a rule, no matter what happens, never to say one word, though it kills me. Maybe the cat has fallen in the stew, or I have put the lettuce out the window and it has frozen, or the meat is not quite done… Grit one’s teeth and smile.”
It’s so hard to actually do this. I think about it a lot as I bite my tongue over something I’ve made. (Or am I crazy? Please tell me I’m not crazy.) Is it connected to our inability to take a compliment without being self-effacing (hi Amy) or are we just our harshest critics? Or do we have expectations that something we worked really hard on will be transcendent, and usually it’s just… a lot of hard work to make something that’s very, very good… and that’s absolutely good enough but maybe “very, very good” is not enough for the effort? I don’t know. But it’s hard.
And yet this salad… look how pretty this summery salad is! Wouldn’t you be so happy if someone put this down in front of your face and you did not have to make it or pay for it? And you got to eat it on a deck with your favorite friends or your sister or your new neighbors? What a gift food can be. What a gift Julia is, to be there in the morning, ranting beside my morning cup of coffee, reminding me not to be an idiot and focus on the best part of making food- that others get to eat. That you get to eat. That you made something, kid. And that’s definitely good enough for today, tonight and every day. Bon appetit indeed.
Tomato Peach Salad with Tofu Cream
Do Ahead: Tofu cream can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
8 Ounces of silken tofu
4 Tablespoons of Sherry vinegar, divided
4 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided
2 Tablespoons of soy sauce, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Medium heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-inch wedges
1 Pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Medium peaches, cut into 1⁄2-inch wedges
1⁄2 Small red onion, thinly sliced
1⁄2 Cup of fresh corn kernels (from 1 medium ear)
2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh tarragon
2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh chervil or basil, plus sprigs for serving
3 Slices of thick grilled or toasted country-style bread, cut lengthwise into wide strips
1. Make tofu cream: blend the tofu, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of oil, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce in a blender until light and smooth; season tofu cream with salt.
2. Make the dressing and the salad: whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, peaches, onion, corn, tarragon, and chopped chervil and toss to combine. Adjust seasoning if needed.
3. To plate: swipe tofu cream on a platter and arrange tomato salad over; top with herbs. Serve with crusty bread.
When the alarm kicked off, Sandra didn’t hesitate- she could feel the tired still ripping through her in waves. It was an exhaustion she could not ignore. She checked her phone to see if any morning meetings had popped up overnight (aka the worst, aka this better be important, aka are-you-aca-kidding-me-with-this shit) and they hadn’t. She promptly patted George the dog on his big, dopey head, climbed back into bed and was asleep in minutes.
She walked into work humming under her breath. It had been a glorious morning. She’d taken George to the beach, an impromptu treat and he’d sorely needed the run. After, she’d done yoga, drank a giant cup of coffee and read a magazine. She’d taken a few minutes in the parking lot at the office and just stared at the light coming through the trees. She was an hour and a half late to work. When Sandra walked in calmly with her lunch in her hands for later, Carly the receptionist stared.
As soon as she made it to her cube, he was on her, in an instant. Tyler, the little tyrant, who had been promoted far too many times at the age of 27 because he’d chosen to abandon his condo and move into their boss’s butthole. His head barely edged over her cubicle wall, the dark hair slicked back. He must’ve just watched Boiler Room again. Sandra took her time removing her coat and took off her sunglasses last, ignoring the way he tapped her wall impatiently. She put her things in order and finally smiled warmly at Tyler. “Good morning. Oh.” She picked up her delicious salad and tapped the edge of the container. “Better put this in the fridge.”
“You’re late,” he hissed in a huff as she walked past him toward the kitchen. He was on her heels like her neighbor’s yipping shih-tzu. “Over an hour late. I had a question about your report from yesterday and you weren’t there.”
Sandra pursed her lips thoughtfully. “The report that I gave you yesterday? The one you suddenly told me about on Monday that was due on Friday, today, even though it was easily two weeks worth of work and I had four days to get it done? The report that required me to stayed late at the office, until nine or ten, all week to finish? That report?” She turned on her heel (they were new and tall, she towered over him now and she loved them. She considered bronzing them for her wall) and raised an eyebrow.
Tyler’s eyes darted around. People were watching. Ben was practically on the edge of his chair, she was surprised he didn’t have popcorn in his hands for the show. Tyler cleared his throat. “Yes,” he said, his smirk still up and defiant. “That report.”
Sandra smiled. “Well, I’m here now. And I was an hour and a half late into work because I decided to stay late in my own life, at home. I felt that really needed serious attention. I’m glad I did because I feel wonderful now and ready to answer any questions you might have about the outstanding, thorough and well-written report that I worked so hard on this week, per your request.” In one swift motion, she put the salad in her fridge, twirled around, grabbed a bottle of water and relished the sound of her heels on the tile as she walked away. “If anyone needs me, I’ll be at my desk.”
Happy Friday sunflowers!
Did you have a good week? Did you make stuff? Did you take care of your own heart? Did you ask for help when you needed it? Did you eat delicious things? I hope you did all of those things. If you didn’t and the week was very long and difficult, I’m happy to remind you that it is now practically over. If days of the week were food, Saturday would be your favorite food. Saturday is a chocolate peanut butter cake and you get to have it tomorrow, yay.
Actually, I’m going to take this pep talk one step further and say that if you had a long and difficult week, the question “did you take care of your own heart?” still very much applies- in fact, it matters more during hard weeks than it does during easy weeks. Women tend to put themselves last on the care list when there’s so much external stuff to do.
Nicole is on a well-deserved vacation with her family, frolicking on a beach in the Carolinas. I hope she’s sincerely not reading this. (Or am I the only one who views a vacation as a terrific excuse to flee any and all screens that don’t have the letters T and V attached to them? Just me? Fair enough.) But I hope she packed up and brought more of this delicious, flavorful, protein-rich salad with her. I’m having it again next week, myself. Maybe adding some dried apricots to it or cherries. Whatever my heart wants, that is.
Garlicky Salad with Crispy Chickpeas
Source: Minimalist Baker | Serves 2-3 | Print Recipe
10 ounces (6 cups) kale, baby spinach, green leaves- loosely chopped or torn
1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained and thoroughly dried
1.5 Tbsp of olive oil
2.5 – 3 Tbsp of tandoori spice*
1 Head of garlic
1/4 Cup of tahini
2 Tbsp of olive oil + more for roasting garlic
2 Lemons, juiced (1/3 cup)
1-2 Tbsp of maple syrup or honey
Pinch each salt + pepper
Hot water to thin
1. Peel apart garlic cloves but leave the skin on. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Add drained chickpeas to a mixing bowl and toss with oil and seasonings.
3. Add garlic cloves and seasoned chickpeas to a baking sheet. Drizzle garlic with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until the chickpeas are slightly crispy and golden brown and the garlic is fragrant and slightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.
4. Squeeze garlic out of skins / peel away skins and add to a mixing bowl. Add all remaining dressing ingredients and whisk vigorously to combine, smashing the garlic with the whisk. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired, adding more lemon for brightness and maple syrup/honey for sweetness. Set aside.
5. Add kale to a large mixing bowl. Before adding dressing, add 1 Tbsp each lemon juice and olive oil to the kale and massage with hands to soften the texture and lessen bitterness. Then add as much dressing as desired (some may be leftover) and mix with a spoon.
6. Top with chickpeas and serve immediately. (If making ahead, I’d go only as far as to massage the lemon and olive oil into the kale- it’ll help the kale break down and taste better. Then, stash the components in the fridge and just assemble right before eating.)
* Make your own Tandoori Masala Blend: 3 Tbsp cumin, 2 Tbsp garlic powder, 2 Tbsp paprika, 3 tsp ginger, 2 tsp coriander, 2 tsp cardamom. Multiply as needed.
All day long, Frances prayed that she would hear words she knew.
She sat on the bus with her flashcards, barely noticing the trees that flew by, their new buds slowly emerging, little nubs jutting into the sky. She looked outside but didn’t look outside at all and mouthed the words on her cards. She spelled some from memory, anchor words, words like luxuriance and dulcimer and guerdon. She’d always loved words, the long ones, the ones that tripped over in her mouth. Frances tapped her fingers against the flashcards and timed her spelling. Tap, letter, tap tap, letter. Syllables were drops of rain.
Frances looked at the next card and smiled. Panzanella. Her mother had surprised her with it for breakfast, put it on the table in front of her daughter and nudged her cards down, just for a second. “Panzanella,” her mother said with her eyebrows up. “Bread salad!” Frances could spell the word forwards and backwards but hadn’t known what it was. It was Italian, she knew that. All she needed was the origin of the word, not the meaning.
She had speared a cube of toasted bread, drenched with dressing that was a little too sour, and popped it in her mouth, enjoying the sensation as she rolled the old word around on her tongue.
Technically, panzanella is made with tomatoes but you’ll forgive us, won’t you? All we want is green. Green, green, green. We’re greedy for it. We bet you are too.
Spring Panzanella Salad with Lemon Dressing
For the Salad:
8 Cups of cubed bread, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 Stick (1/4 Cup) of butter, melted
1 Teaspoon of finely chopped chives
1 Teaspoon of finely chopped parsley
1 Large bunch of fresh asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 Cups of baby arugula
1 Cup of fresh or frozen (thawed) peas
1/2 Cup of crumbled feta cheese
For the Lemon Dressing:
1/3 Cup of extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 Teaspoon of white or golden balsamic vinegar
1/2 Teaspoon of honey
1 Tablespoon of minced shallot
1 Clove of garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon of chopped chives
1 Tablespoon of chopped parsley
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place bread cubes in a bowl. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, chives and parsley. Pour herb butter over the bread cubes and toss until well-coated. Pour bread onto a large baking sheet. Season with salt and black pepper. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes or until bread cubes are crunchy and slightly golden brown. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
2. When bread is toasted, increase heat to 400°F. Place asparagus pieces on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast, turning occasionally, 18-20 minutes or until asparagus is tender, but still crisp. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
3. In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, asparagus, arugula, peas and feta.
4. To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combined olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, honey, shallot and garlic. Whisk until well combined. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.
5. Drizzle dressing over the salad and gently toss. Garnish panzanella salad with additional chives and parsley. Serve. (Best the day it’s made.)
Destiny and Keevah never really met, formally. There were no real introductions, no mention of last names or what they each did for a living, at the time. They ended up in the same small circle at the home of their mutual friend Maris who had decided, on a whim, to throw an informal brunch for everyone she knew. The only thing she had said as she glanced from side to side at her friends was, “My two most unusually named friends, under one roof!”
Destiny and Keevah had both smiled sheepishly and sipped their coffee before they fell into separate conversations.
In the corner of the room, unseen, the same Destiny and Keevah stood. They were ten years older and surveyed the brunch scene, and their younger selves, with bemused horror. “God, look at my hair,” Keevah said. She reached a hand up to touch her own natural curls, now unruly but still far, far improved from the days when she would forcibly iron her hair into flat, shiny submission. “Why am I talking to Brad Saunders? Ugh, I hated that guy.”
“She’s serving that burrata salad. I remember how impressed I was about that. Burrata at brunch.” Destiny, now largely pregnant, rested a hand on her kicking belly and stared at the back of her younger self. “Is that really how I look from behind?”
“You’re fine.” Keevah scowled at her younger self who, at that moment, batted Brad Saunders on the arm and laughed. “I wish we’d been friends at this party,” she said. She’d shuffled home miserably after the party, Keevah remembered, exhausted by the chitchat and the forced splendor of Maris’ home in the South Loop, depressed about her own crumbling apartment, stung by an offhand comment from Maris about the state of her love life. Or lack thereof.
“Me too.” Destiny arched her back and winced. “Look at poor Maris. Trying so hard to have a good time.” They both glanced over at the friend who had introduced them or, really, just off-handedly put them together in the same room. She was wearing pearls but was barefoot because that had seemed very elegant, to be in pearls but barefoot. She could not really pull off the look though, when so many people nearly stepped on her naked feet.
How could Maris have known that this was the first of many times that the two women would be thrown into the same awkward party or social situation? That they would eventually come to seek each other out. That they would catch each other’s eye when someone said something just too ridiculous to go unnoticed. That they would then meet up for a drink, just the two of them, and end up, as it happened, talking about Maris, who they were both struggling to still be friends with, or find things in common with.
More trips to the bar, stops at the bookstore, coffee after coffee after coffee, lounging movie nights, late night texts after one of them had broken up with a guy or was starting to see a guy or when each of them had met the guy. Keevah at Destiny’s mother’s funeral; there was a moment when she could feel Destiny start to go beside her and Keevah reached out and grabbed her arm and Destiny did not cry, which was what she wanted- she was trying to be strong for her brother. Destiny running up the steps at city hall in her black pants and boots when Keevah called in the middle of work on a Tuesday to tell her she was getting married and could she get there quick, as Keevah had changed her mind at the last second about wanting a witness. All the little moments in between; countless, endless, stacked up like gold coins between them.
They watched the scene before them and their singular, struggling selves and then Keevah snagged two glasses of mimosa from the side table and handed one to Destiny. “Just a sip for you, Mama,” Keevah said and she raised her glass. Destiny looked at her expectantly. “To Maris. Who did her job.”
Destiny grinned and raised a glass to toast their hostess. “Who did her job.”
Thank you so much for helping us celebrate our three years of SKS this week! All of your warm and lovely comments were deeply appreciated. And, uh, wow- I got a lot of good name ideas so thank you for that too. The full list is below. I think it’s safe to say that we, as a group, wish we were living in a romance novel.
And now… drumroll please for our two winners! The numbers picked, by Random.Org were comments 31 and 3; congratulations to Allison Day and Melanie!
We will email you today to discuss which foodie package you would like to receive in the mail from us. Our most sincere thanks to everyone who participated.
Here were your character names, in the order received. I should be good for the next three years with these. Or ten years.
Computer (for a dog)
Earlene and Earl (twins)
Eleanor and Leanore (twins)
Jeanette and Antoinette (twins)
Axel de Luna
Baloney Raymond (ha!)
Anders (Workaholics fan?)
Bronwyn (perfect for that Lord of the Rings fan-fiction I’ve been meaning to write…)
Ogee Eckard (your own name IS amazing)
Reese Luisi (I’m Italian, so I liked the full name)
And now, ladies and gentlemen, your salad… specifically, your Heirloom Tomato, Chorizo and Burrata Salad which, frankly, is almost too beautiful to eat. Let us just stare at it and behold its wonder and be thankful that cheese exists. Especially burrata which is like mozzarella but magic. If burrata is ever on a menu, you say “We will have all of the burrata you have.” End of lesson.
Heirloom Tomato, Chorizo and Burrata Salad
400 grams of heirloom tomatoes, halved
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
6 Slice of chorizo, sliced diagonally
1 Tablespoon of capers, rinsed
1 Ball of Burrata cheese
2-3 Slices of fresh baguette
1 Garlic clove, halved
Fresh basil leaves
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 265°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Place halved tomatoes on baking tray, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Turn tomatoes so cut side is facing up and roast for 30 minutes. Transfer smaller tomatoes into a bowl to cool while the larger tomatoes roast for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and add to bowl.
3. In a frying pan, grill the chorizo on each side for 1 minute until golden. Transfer to paper towel to drain. To hot pan, add capers and fry for 30 seconds until slightly golden. Transfer to paper towel with chorizo.
4. On a baking sheet, place the baguette slices. Drizzle both sides with olive oil and grill until golden. Remove and rub one side with the cut garlic.
5. To serve, place the tomatoes, chorizo and capers together on a plate. Top with the burrata, drizzle with oil and balsamic to taste. Scatter with basil leaves and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with grilled baguette.
Next week, I’ll tell you a story. I promise.
Something magical. Something with faeries maybe. An angry faery named Tegan. Yeah, that sounds good.
Right now, it’s nine o’clock on a Friday and I can barely keep my head up. I am amazed at how thoroughly tired I feel. Everything is depleted, everything, everything. I am so entirely and wholly grateful to my parents, who drove to Maine from New York and took care of my dog while I was in Austin for six days. I walked into the house on Wednesday night, at one in the morning, and found four loaves of Irish Soda Bread waiting for me on the dining room table, and a fridge full of pasta and sauce and meatballs and chicken cutlets. What more could an exhausted thirty-two year old Irish/Italian ask for?
Things will resume their normal pace soon, I hope. For right now, all I’m focused on is taking said dog for one last walk and climbing into bed. Maybe I’ll shake the dreams of snow and cold and dream of this salad instead, all bright color and snap and verve. Nicole tells me it was delicious and I believe her- we eat with our eyes first and it’s a beauty, isn’t it?
Roast Carrot and Avocado Salad with Orange and Lemon Dressing
500 Grams of medium carrots (leafy tops still attached)
2 Teaspoons of whole cumin seeds
1-2 Small, dried chillies
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Cloves of garlic, peeled
4 Sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Red or white wine vinegar
1 Orange, halved
1 Lemon, halved
3 Ripe avocados
Red wine vinegar
Small slices of ciabatta or other good-quality bread
2 Handfuls of mixed winter salad leaves (arugula, radicchio, Treviso), washed and dried
2 Punnets cress (just kidding, I have no idea what that is)
150 ml of fat-free yogurt
4 Tablespoons of mixed seeds, toasted
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Parboil your carrots in boiling, salted water for 10 minutes until they’re nearly cooked. While they’re cooking, smash up the cumin seeds, chillies, salt and pepper. Add the garlic and thyme leaves and smash them too, until you have a kind of paste. Add enough olive oil to cover the paste and a splash of vinegar. Stir together.
3. Drain the carrots and arrange them on a roasting tray. Pour over the marinade and coat the carrots well. Add the orange and lemon halves to the tray, cut-side down. Place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden.
4. While the carrots and marinade are roasting, halve and peel the avocados, discard the stones, then cut them into wedges lengthways and place in a big bowl.
5. Remove the carrots from the oven and add them to the bowl with the avocados. Using tongs, squeeze the roasted orange and lemon juice into a bowl and add the same amount of olive oil and a little swig of red wine vinegar. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.
6. Mix together, have a taste and correct the seasoning.
7. Toast your bread. Tear the toasted bread into little pieces and add to the dressed carrot and avocado. Mix together and toss in salad leaves. Spoon over a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle with toasted seeds and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Little Talia picked up the princess doll and the prince doll and regarded them seriously. “It is I, Pharoah Talia,” she said in a booming voice and she made the dolls tremble in her wake. “I hear you have been mean to each other. Prince Arthur, you speak first.”
Talia’s voice deepened as the prince went to his knees (which was really lying flat on the floor because the doll couldn’t bend his knees). “I did not do anything wrong.”
“Yes, you did!” The Pharaoh’s voice boomed. “You make the princess upset every day.”
“She calls me fat and lazy.”
“You are fat and lazy!” Boomed the pharaoh and Talia made the cardboard walls of their castle shake. “You lie around on the couch all day and the princess does everything. And then you complain. And you!” The pharaoh rounded on the smug princess. “You bring him his dinner and you listen to his complaints and you say nothing.”
“I am trying to be kind,” replied the princess. She had long blonde hair and Talia wished from a place deep in her heart that her hair was dark like Talia’s. “I want him to be happy.”
“You just want someone there,” the pharaoh said sadly. “You should listen to Dr. Edelstein.”
The princess looked confused. Well, she looked happy all the time but Talia pretended she looked confused. “Who is Dr. Edelstein, Pharaoh?”
Talia shot up in bed, her heart in her throat. The dream had felt so real, she thought. But she wasn’t really in her childhood room, on the floor, with a paper crown on her head. She was in bed. In Denver.
Beside her, Arthur groaned. “You woke me up. Now I won’t get back to sleep.” He rolled his big body over and glared at her with one eye open. “And I have that interview tomorrow and now I’ll be thrown off because I didn’t sleep and I won’t get the job and then you’ll get mad at me and-“
Talia looked down at him. “Yeah, we’re breaking up.”
“And- what?” Arthur blinked.
“We’re breaking up. Right now.” Talia swung out of the bed, her bed and surveyed the mess of sheets and Arthur in the middle, blinking like a beached seal. “Get up. Time to go.”
“What?” Arthur stared. “What? Are you crazy?”
“No, I just forgot something. Come on! Up and at it! Let’s go.” She grabbed him by the arm and pushed him out of the bed. He stood in his boxers, his jaw dropped. “Let’s go. You can go to Dave’s. I’m sure he won’t be surprised. You can get your stuff in the morning. Let’s go. Shoes.” She picked up his barely worn sneakers and handed them to him. He stared at her.
“Wha- you can’t. Forgot something?” He looked torn between hurt and outrage. She would’ve felt bad but she was already picturing her house and her bed and her life without him in it. She put her hands on her hips and looked at him expectantly.
“Yes, I’d forgotten something. That I’m awesome.” Talia smiled and tossed him his coat. “I’m the Pharaoh.”
Ah, I love the smell of resolutions in the morning.
Things I will not be doing right now: apologizing if this is the 17th salad recipe you’ve seen from a blog this week, apologizing for farro (because it’s delicious), apologizing for reminding you that you made some promises to yourself for the year, apologizing that this isn’t a brownie recipe but one for warm farro salad with chickpeas, feta and spicy dressing. Yeah, we’re not apologizing for anything this morning. I love resolutions personally- change is good. Positive change should be celebrated all year round but I’m down with it getting some attention in January. That’s not a bad thing. And the very best part of a salad is that it makes you feel less guilty when you eat a deep chocolate peppermint sable cookie at work two hours later.
So a little cheerful reinforcement this morning. Whatever you want to do for yourself, you can do. If there’s an ass to be kicked, then kick it. And remember: farro today means cookie tonight.
Warm Farro Salad with Chickpeas, Feta, and Spicy Dressing
For the farro:
1 Cup of farro
½ Teaspoon of salt
For the dressing:
3 Tablespoons of fish sauce
3 Tablespoons of lime juice
2 to 3 Tablespoons (25 to 35 g) of brown sugar
6 to 8 Tablespoons of water, to taste
1 Medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 Thai chile, very thinly sliced
For the salad:
Chickpeas, either canned (drained and rinsed) or cooked from dried
Escarole, coarsely chopped or sliced
Radicchio, coarsely sliced
Carrots, sliced into rounds
Feta, coarsely crumbled
Note from SKS: Have you discovered roasted chickpeas yet? If you haven’t, now is a good time. I love roasted chickpeas in this salad- toss drained and dried chickeas with drizzle of oil of your choosing, add salt and spices to taste, and roast in a hot oven until barely crisp. Yes, it’s an extra step but you will not come back from this. Roasted chickpeas are life changing. – J
1. Make the farro: put the farro in a medium (2 ½- to 3-quart) saucepan, add cold water to cover, and set it aside to soak for 30 minutes. Then drain the farro, put it back into the saucepan, and add 3 cups of cold water and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil; then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until tender but still a little chewy, about 45 minutes. When it’s ready, drain it, and either use it while it’s warm or transfer it to a storage container for later use. (Covered and chilled, cooked farro will keep for a few days.)
2. Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, 6 tablespoons of the water, the garlic, and chile. Whisk well. Taste: if it’s too pungent, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time. If it’s not sweet enough, add a bit more brown sugar. (Covered and chilled, the dressing will keep up to a week.)
3. To assemble a portion of salad, scoop out a couple of large spoonfuls of farro – maybe 1/3 to ½ cup – and put it in a wide bowl. (Molly recommends warming it slightly in the microwave.) Add a large spoonful of chickpeas, a good handful each of escarole and radicchio, and maybe half of a carrot, sliced. Top with a generous amount of feta, and then drizzle dressing to taste. Toss and enjoy.
Talk about timing.
The first thing that happened: I had seen this Caesar Salad recipe on Simple Bites a while ago and pinned it (as you do), thinking it’d be the perfect salad side at a BBQ. Salad you can eat with your hands! LIKE A HOT DOG.
The second thing that happened: While on Simple Bites that first day, which is a terrific site if you haven’t been there yet, it occurred to me that I should email Aimee and ask the question that had been plaguing me for weeks- over Memorial Day weekend, I’m visiting my (very) pregnant friend and had offered to cook her yummy things to help ready them for the baby and…. I had no clue what to make. The Internet was shockingly devoid of plans for such things (at least from what I could find via the first two pages of Google. You know how this goes- you search, you look through the first two pages of results from Google, you throw your hands up in pitched frustration and say, “This just does not exist!” and then overturn the coffee table. And then wonder if you’ve had too much coffee that morning. Oh, that last part’s just me? Fair enough.) So, I emailed her. And heard nothing. Which is fine! It’s not like I’m not the POPE or anything! People are busy! I’m busy too! But still, I worried about what I would do when I went to see Sarah.
Cut to today: I went back to Simple Bites to dutifully source/thank them for the wonderful recipe and WELL. HELLO. I’m not taking credit for it, most likely it’s just a coincidence. But who cares! I’m leaving tonight! And now I know what to do! Is that lucky or what?
So now you get a fork-free salad recipe, I get a recipe list, we’ve come full circle and everyone wins. Happy weekend to us all. Happy weekend one and all!
Caesar Wedge Salad with Bacon and Parmesan
3 Romaine lettuce hearts
6 Strips of cooked (baked) bacon
1/4 Cup of freshly grated or shaved Parmesan
3 Tablespoons of Caesar dressing
Fresh black pepper
Lemon wedges, to garnish
1. Slice Romaine hearts in half lengthwise or peel away whole leaves. Rinse under cold water, drain and press with kitchen towel. Remove as much water as possible.
2. Arrange leaves on a platter and drizzle with dressing.
3. Add bacon strips and shaved Parmesan (don’t want a whole a bacon strip per serving? Crumble bits of bacon over the dressing. The dressing acts like glue to keep everything in place.)
4. Just before serving, drizzle with remaining Caesar dressing and a sprinkling of fresh black pepper.
Serve immediately, with lemon wedges.
“This is so good.”
“Mmmm. I just want to crawl into the bowl and take a nap.”
“You could use a peanut for a pillow.”
“Omg, yes. And a cilantro leaf for a blanket.”
“And I’d go to take a forkful and you’d be on the fork, snoozing.”
“And I’d be all, ‘Don’t eat me, Martha! It’s me, your friend! I live here!'”
“And I’d pick you up by the collar of your shirt and set you down by my plate.”
“Yes. Because that’s what friends do. They do not eat their friend who has been mysteriously shrunken and trying to sleep in their delicious lunch.”
I know, I know. You’re all, “A salad? Really, Twix Tart?”
LISTEN. We’re getting married in a few weeks, okay? And by we, I mean Nicole is getting married and I’m just squealing and clapping and doing a lot of obnoxious question-asking at inopportune moments, and also pestering her about recipes when she’s knee-deep in wedding details.
So, yes. A salad. A delicious, healthy, visually stunning salad. There’s something so Thai about this salad. Lime. Peanuts. Mango. Cilantro.
When Nicole suggested this recipe from this month’s Bon Appetit, I had already used the same grain-salad guide to riff on a Roasted Tomato Quinoa Salad, which was on full display this week in our Facebook Group as a part of my Day of Cooking Crazy where I made way, way too many things last Sunday and began to seriously question my mental health.
But. Anyway. That guide is great. It should be a no-brainer to take a handful of grains, add a zesty vinegarette, add some protein and some fruit and veggies, some nuts here and there, and call it a day. But sometimes you need to see it all spelled out in just the right way.
Black Rice Salad with Mango and Peanuts
1/4 Cup of fresh lime juice, to taste
2 TBsps of vegetable oil
1 TBsp of fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam; optional)
2 Cups of black rice (preferably Lotus Foods Forbidden Rice)
2 Just-ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 Cup of fresh cilantro leaves
1 Cup of finely chopped red onion (about 1/2 large onion)
1/2 Cup of unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
6 Scallions, thinly sliced
2 Jalapeños, seeded, minced
1. Oranges: Remove peel and bitter, white pith from oranges. Working over a medium bowl to catch juices and using a small sharp knife, cut between membranes to release orange segments into bowl. Squeeze membranes over bowl to release any juices. Strain juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl; reserve orange segments.
2. Add 1/4 cup of lime juice, oil, and fish sauce (if using) to bowl with orange juice; whisk to blend. Set dressing aside.
3. Bring rice and 2 and 3/4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Season lightly with salt.
4. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 25 minutes.
5. Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Spread out rice on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with dressing, and season lightly with salt; let cool.
6. Place mangoes and remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
7. Add rice and toss gently to combine.
8. Season lightly with salt and more lime juice, if desired.
Peter liked these evenings best.
It was late when he arrived home but, somewhat miraculously, the sun was still out. The light filtered in between the buildings that ringed around his, drifting into his flat through the endlessly tall windows. He’d bought the place for the address, yes, but the windows too.
His suit jacket was tossed over the nearest kitchen stool at once and he rolled up his shirt sleeves. Out came the bowls from the ice box. They were silver and belonged to his mother, cold in his hands. Two lemons rolled over the marble counter tops, eager to play, and he plopped them on a tiny gold dish, the curved, gilded edges cradling them and holding them aloft, a gift from a former lover, long gone now.
Though he knew the air outside was heavy and humid, the flat was cool. Too cool with that smell. There was something false about it that made Peter wince. It reminded him of the office. Still, it was better than sweating over a plate of cold shrimp, he supposed. He tried to remind himself of a time when he was a younger man, wringing himself dry in a cramped, sweltering place.
On a day that hadn’t been so long, so heavy, he would’ve popped open a bottle of wine and poured himself a glass. Something white. Maybe put on some music to pump through the wireless speakers that had cost him a small fortune. He could be listening to something floaty, something like an aria, something that would fill the room out to its corners.
Instead, he gathered all of his utensils close to him and went to work. He listened to the sound of the fork hitting the walls of the small mason jar instead. The knife clapped against the cutting board, the flesh of the tomato yielded to his fingers. When things started to sizzle on the stove behind him, when the air took on something more real, something fragrant and edged with spice, Peter finally felt his shoulders drop as the kitchen, his kitchen, slowly and gently led him away from his life. It coaxed him into a chair and dropped a hand to his shoulder. It nudged the creamy blue bowl into his waiting hands, filling him whole.
Shrimp Cobb Salad
From Cooking Light- May 2011
4 slices center-cut bacon
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 (10-ounce) package romaine salad
2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup shredded carrots (about 2 carrots)
1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1 ripe peeled avocado, cut into 8 wedges
Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp.
Remove bacon from pan; cut in half crosswise. Wipe pan clean with paper towels.
Increase heat to medium-high. Sprinkle shrimp with paprika and pepper. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shrimp to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt; toss to coat.
While the shrimp cooks, combine remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, juice, oil, and mustard in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
Add lettuce; toss to coat.
Arrange about 1 1/2 cups lettuce mixture on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with about 6 shrimp, 1/2 cup tomatoes, 1/4 cup carrot, 1/4 cup corn, 2 avocado wedges, and 2 bacon pieces.