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SALAD DAZE

I think I have a new favorite salad. It’s true love. Sadly, our relationship can’t last forever.

Isn’t she a beauty? Alas, our relationship is temporary because the ingredients are 90% seasonal. Our tomatoes are practically gone, and this is the last week for corn. Don’t even get me started about fresh cannellini beans and those tender green beans. Sigh.

Some mornings I wake up with wicked cravings. Recently, it was Salade Niçoise.

After a quick run to the market, I had absolutely every fresh ingredient I needed. The freshly shelled cannellini beans were the crowning jewel.

So pretty. I could hardly bear to throw away the bean’s papery, creamy husks.

The wannabe-stylist in me loved assembling this gargantuan salad. I thought about organizing all of the colors in a rainbow sequence, but then thought better of it. I was missing the color blue, anyway.

Adam surprised me with a few treats of his own, too, including this platter of ripe figs. I’ve learned so much about proper fruit from him — like a fig that isn’t jammy, oozy, sticky, and basically sugary mush isn’t worth eating. I’ve learned to steer clear of all of those firm, tasteless, expensive figs. Goodbye.

He had another surprise, too — wild Quebec blackberries, smaller than my pinkie fingernail, and so sweet and tender. I haven’t had this much fun eating blackberries since I lived in Portland and ate them everyday.

The finest kind of salad, in my opinion, is just thoughtful assembly. I once had a mindblowing Salade Niçoise in a small bistro in Paris, but honestly when you have ingredients this splendid and this fresh, nothing else will ever compare. Nothing else will ever come close. Ingredients to consider in varying degrees of proportion when putting together your own Salade Niçoise:

Sliced avocado (that would be my California upbringing rearing its head, saying, “put avocado in every salad you make, ever”)
Sliced tomatoes
Fresh, raw corn
Summery green beans, blanched briefly
Diced red onion, carrots, and celery
A fistful of freshly shelled cannellini beans, boiled until tender
Soft-boiled eggs (note: I hate hard-boiled eggs, but that would be the more traditional option)
New potatoes, boiled for 20 minutes, then cut into discs
Halved olives (we used Kalamata)
Can tuna packed in oil
Some kind of tender lettuce (I spotted some handsome heads of Boston lettuce at Birri recently)
Parsley to garnish; lemon vinaigrette to dress.

I’m really trying to enjoy my salad days while I can. And honestly, this was one of the best lunches I’ve had in along time.

“..My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…”

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NEW WEEK

Early morning breakfast. I’m trying half-heartedly to eat less gluten, which means that I’m eating one piece of toast for breakfast instead of three. Baby steps. For breakfast I stewed a pot of freshly shelled cranberry beans and added diced carrots, fennel, shallots, thyme, basil, mint, and a bit of butter. I finished with some old white wine, lemon juice, and a diced tomato, which made everything quite tart and acidic, perfect for breakfast.

WALLED IN

I should probably take better care of the things that I love, but often those become the items that get the most disheveled and worn out.

Some of my errant doodles, and postcards I’ve had for over a decade

My favorite carpet (okay, my only carpet)

My (terrifyingly cluttered) office space. (Yes, I know it needs work.)

Part of my Rachel Comey shoe collection (the loafers, the red suede heels, and the pink leather heels) interspersed with well-worn thrifted purchases

My favorite (very wrinkled) Debbie Carlos poster, creased in so many places that it doesn’t lay flat anymore

The best Ermie dress (better images of it soon), and one of my favorite (funniest) photos of me and Adam, taken at La Baie. It’s one of the best presents ever given to me, in which we spent an afternoon with the department store’s extremely enthusiastic photographer, and tried to see just how completely dorky and ridiculous we can look. I was really into the whole “man standing behind the woman in a pensive embrace.”

SEMI ROUTINE

Breakfast with my boyfriend always includes a little bit of fruit, artfully arranged, a little bit of bread, toasted (though I’m trying to cut back), a little bit of cheese and butter, and, if I’m lucky, a fried egg or two. Lots of cracked pepper and fleur de sel. It’s an unstoppable breakfast. This kind of meal doesn’t happen every day, but it’s nice to take 30 minutes out of your morning to relax and enjoy some nice food. I can’t believe it’s already September. It was hard to say goodbye to the greengage plums, and now I have to say goodbye to peaches, too?

MORNING PERFECTION

Our talented and awesome friend Michelle gave us a generous parcel of her blackberry brioche. The brioche was some of the best I’ve ever had, truly donut-like in character, tender, sweet, and light. I gobbled one down for breakfast, accompanied with some green tea, syrupy Greengages and Ontario nectarines.

TECHNIQUE + HABIT

Salmon is a forgiving fish, but not always. Through years of trial and error, I’ve found that a nice side of wild salmon (I pick out the pin bones with a pair of tweezers) will always stay tender and moist if it is simply brushed with a bit of olive oil, dusted with salt and pepper, and shoved under the broiler for about five minutes. Keeping a watchful eye and finishing with generous squeezes of lemon renders perfect fish, every time. (Okay, not every time). I find that roasting salmon, on the other hand, delivers a slice of anemic-looking fish with the texture of cat food… and I have yet to master the pan-sear. Live and die by the broil method.

Alongside the salmon was a simple green salad dressed in walnut oil, roasted new potatoes and chopped scallions, and sauteed green beans and carrots. (The key to perfect string beans is to parboil them in salted water for two minutes before flinging them into a piping hot frying pan, where they snap and sizzle for another couple of minutes and attain the perfect amount of crisp and char).

MIDDAY FUEL

With a willing partner in the kitchen to help rinse and chop, this intensely flavorful lunch comes together in less than 30 minutes. Put a pot of salted water on to boil, and add a bit of olive oil to a cast iron skillet. Fry a few strips of prosciutto in the skillet until crispy, then remove, cool, and break into large chips. Don’t clean the skillet! With a mandoline, I grated a zucchini into tiny matchsticks, and then added to the hot, smoking skillet (okay, I added some butter to the skillet, too). Saute until nearly translucent, then add several cloves of chopped garlic and a few generous pinches of red chili flakes.

Add halved new potatoes to boiling water, wait 10 minutes, then add pasta, wait six minutes, then add washed and trimmed green beans. Using a ladle, spoon some of the starchy pasta-potato water into the skillet, and stir. Add the juice of half a lemon, plenty of salt, freshly grated black pepper, and more chili flakes to taste. Let the starchy water + lemon thicken into a nice sauce, and reserve more pasta water if it looks a little dry. Drain potatoes, pasta, and green beans all at once, and add to the skillet. Serve immediately, and top with grated pecorino and prosciutto chips.

The tomato salad was even easier: simply halve a bunch of cherry tomatoes, dice up a cucumber, mince some onion, and toss all together. We added some high quality olive oil, fresh oregano, dried oregano, and minced scallions. The perfect lunch.

[And Montreal friends, don’t forget! A fun concert tonight.]