I should call this the Monet salad. I’m teasing, of course, but whenever I see varying tones of green and purple with touches of blue, I think of French Impressionist Claude Monet’s most famous and recognizable series of paintings — Waterlilies.
Once upon a time, I’d have talked up a recipe for hot wings as being the best type of game day food — and we did enjoy these recently before a Chargers game. Unfortunately the Chargers have been playing so horribly this season, my husband — the world’s most dedicated sports fan — didn’t bother to turn the game on. And I’m glad, because he isn’t a happy camper when a team he likes, a team he’s been behind forever — the home team — is playing poorly. It’s intense. Perhaps you know a sports fan like my husband? Bless you.
I have a page torn from the October 2010 issue of Cooking Light that has been in and around various rooms in our house. I see it most when I’m not interested in it, wedged between food magazines stacked at the end of the sofa, sticking out from between the pages of one of the cookbooks I’ve been leafing through, or inserted next to the telephone with take-out menus and reminders of dentist appointments. The now wrinkled page is from The Hungry Traveler section and sports a recipe on each of its sides, but I have paid little attention to one of them because the salad is what originally caught my eye. It had all the right flavors in it for what I thought was a special occasion salad — one served on a holiday. I suppose it caught my eye because I’d been making a salad somewhat like it for years, but there was a bit of a different spin on this one, and so I tore it out before tossing the magazine in one of my manic magazine thinning moments.
I’ve never been able to completely understand how this happens. So many bits and pieces of our lives are tucked here and there — or not — and are so much more important, yet are lost. We took the time to put them in a special pile of special things so we could put a finger on them in a second when needed, priding ourselves for our organizational skills. But when we need them, we can’t find them. Clearly, a file folder isn’t our idea of being organized. Perhaps I should rethink the entire thing, allowing the important things to also slip between magazines or beneath the sofa, trusting that when needed, they’d miraculously appear.
So why this salad?
I think it was the dressing. I’m always ready to try something light and flavorful, but different than our usual citrus vinaigrette — if you can call it that. We squeeze citrus over our salads before drizzling extra virgin olive oil and call it dressing. But once in a while, I do enjoy actually making dressing and this one included dried apricots. When I first read it, I thought the apricots were mixed into the salad because that’s what I’ve done over the years — their bit of sweetness mixed with the other ingredients is wonderful. I was wrong, and when I finally looked carefully realized the apricots are blended in.
What a delicious difference.
I suppose I should be thankful the torn page has not been lost or I’d have never realized my mistake. And I’d throw it in the trash at this point, but the recipe on the other side has finally gotten my attention, so I know I’ll have to make that soon to relieve the poor page from its duty.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about locally grown food lately — not unusual for me by any means, but my thoughts have just been more intensely focused. So it shouldn’t be unusual for an article like “Butchers’ Banquet: England’s Lincolnshire Wolds” published in the October 2011 issue of Saveur to have an impact on me. I’m always looking for truly good recipes for traditional food, and even though I’m not British, I have solid connections. In 1881 at the age of three, my great-grandfather sailed with his family from Newport, Wales to San Francisco hoping to find inexpensive land where his family might grow apples. But that’s a story for another day.
This is more about the group of men mentioned in the article who have gotten together over years and years to enjoy a Sunday meal each week. They know where the food has been grown, how it’s been grown, and have prepared it to showcase its quality. Of course, it helps that they’re in the business. I’d like to be invited to a table like that to hear the talk and understand more about what they know. I’ll work on that from here in San Diego and maybe, just maybe, by the end of this year, I’ll know more about the more than 6,000 farms in our county and the farmers who tend them.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share these great Steak & Guinness pies with you. My father-in-law loves Stilton and will jump at any excuse to tuck his napkin into his shirt and cozy up to a plate of hot food like this with a pint. The recipe isn’t challenging, but does take some time, so plan ahead. It’s worth it.
My meager pot of tomato plants has finished producing and been cut back to a few stalks jutting from the dark soil they’ve been planted in since May, waiting for me to pull them up. But I’m lucky to have friends whose plants are still producing and thankfully willing to share. The challenge for me at times is knowing what to do with them because my own plants have rarely produced more than what we can eat in a salad. Often my timing is bad in being able to enjoy the lot — just how many tomatoes can two people eat at one sitting, right? Especially when my husband forgets to bring them home right away and they’re, well, soft.
Into the freezer they go — stems and all. I put them on a metal tray until they’re hard as rocks, then pour them into a plastic bag for later use. Last year I managed to save a bag until mid-February when it was a welcome addition to a hearty tomato squash soup. This year, I’ve already used one frozen bag, but still have two more in the freezer and will enjoy deciding what to make with them.
I’ll have to blame my need to use some of my frozen homegrown tomato stash on this Irish Blue Cheese and Tomato Soup recipe from Soup Chick. I’m a pushover to begin with because I love tomato soup, but I’ve never had it with blue cheese — let alone bacon. I was completely intrigued, so of course I had to try it. I had the tomatoes, but the recipe requires that they are roasted. Roasting isn’t a problem because I’ve roasted tomatoes several different ways and truly enjoy the flavor. However I’d never roasted thawed, frozen tomatoes.
I love a good food experiment, don’t you? Especially when the result is such a satisfyingly, tasty soup.