Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Right Here Right Now Salad

Yesterday I went to the grocery store with the intention of buying some fish to make ceviche to use in today's salad. I asked the teenage baseball capped man behind the counter if they had anything fresh with which to make a nice ceviche. "a...what?..." 
"ceviche, it is a fish dish where the fish is cooked with citrus" I said. 
"uhhhh..hold on. Brian, do we have si-vee-chay" the teenage employee whisked up a box and disappeared into the stainless steel background. He averted his eyes and I was never again to be graced with his attention. 
"can I help you maam?" Brian said "yes" I said "do you have any fish that would be good to use in a ceviche?" 
"ahhhh..is that a kind of fish, or..???" At this point, my gut instinct was to back slowly away from the fish counter, and take it as a sign. Ceviche is a dish best made in coastal towns, where the fish flop from the ocean to your plate and only need a squeeze of lime to cook. I wanted island flavors, and almost passed over all the wonderful offerings of a Minnesota spring and risked buying a salt water fish from a fish salesman who had never before heard of ceviche in pursuit of them...almost.  

Today, while I was making salad Christina came into the living room, flopped down on the couch, swung her boots up onto the table and said "do you know where I want to be right now?" Visions of tropical islands, fast moving boats, motorcycles, horses and luxury resorts filled my mind. "Where? "I said "Right here" she said.

I started my day off with radishes, eating them, talking about them, writing about them and appreciating their unique spicy flavor when I happen upon them in season. Through the wonders of modern technology I spoke to my niece in Germany from a coffee shop. I managed to draw a sizable crowd of eyes when I performed a rendition of "the itsy bitsy spider" into my giggling computer screen (complete with hand signals). I visited Germany last winter and my brother, who curiously has managed to develop a German accent over the years even though he moved there as an adult, cooked a lovely ravioli with a balsamic reduction. 

Salads build themselves throughout the day, a flavor inspired by a memory. If memories were stagnant, a whole new language would form around the flavors. After Germany was Paris in January, which was damp and cold and I was haunted by bittersweet longing for my new love, just met and left back home. Asparagus and green beans, blanched, with red onion spice and garlic so purple it bleeds into the pure white flesh beneath her coat. The sweet sendoff from my German relatives contributes a balsamic coating to it all. This salad is a child screaming for more from her highchair after having had her first bite of a sweet garden cherry tomato sprinkled with salt. It is the bittersweet memory of distance between love. 

The dressing: 
Slice 1/4 small red onion
mince 3 small cloves local purple garlic (purple garlic is usually spicier than white garlic)
heat 1 Tbsp sunflower oil and add onion, garlic and a pinch of salt. Heat for about 2 min. Add 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1 tsp sugar. Reduce on low heat. Remove vinegar and blend with another 1/4 red onion, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp lemon juice and 3/4 tsp mustard powder. Sprinkle with basil, pepper and thyme. 

For the salad, blanch 1 bunch of asparagus and 3 cups of string beans (add to boiling water just long enough to get hot and bring out the beautiful green, and then plunge into freezing water) Dice the asparagus and green beans into bite sized pieces, add sliced and quartered cherry tomatoes (sprinkle with salt!!) add a few tsp of raw diced or sliced red onion if you like (the dressing should be sweet, this will balance out the flavor). Garnish with radish slices. If you prefer more bitter and less sweet, add some chopped romaine to dilute the sweetness. 

Christina's vote: "I could eat this salad every day of my life and not get bored"

1 comment:

  1. we have purple asparagus right now at the store