Saturday, August 8, 2009

What Do You Do With Abundance? Salad

It is Saturday and the weather woke up stormy. Clouds gathered in an ominous purple sky. When I put on my running clothes I felt like a small child. I had 21 miles to cover before lunchtime and I was sure to get poured on before the adventure was through. I returned my ipod to it's home in the drawer and felt instant pangs of separation anxiety, like a child divorced from her baby blanket. I began to worry. Would I get bored, cold, lonely, struck by lightening? Worry was interrupted by surrender and I chose to focus on using this silent run to pretend I am a tourist and take mental snapshots of the sights. Storms make fantastic imaginary photography subjects. In order to keep form, I imagine wheels where my legs are supposed to be. These wheels seem to power my imagination further, and soon I am propelled into various adventures of lives not yet lived. At mile 16 it started to rain, and the water felt warm and cleansing. The air was like tea steam and inhaling it was like drinking in leaves. I began to think of the vegetables at the farm stand, how they must be speckled with earth from yesterdays rain. I remembered cooking in southern New Jersey, how at this time of the year bags would appear in the galley overflowing with vegetables looking for hands willing to take on the challenge of cooking them.

Squash, zucchini and eggplant. They seem to proliferate faster than people can get rid of them.
Perhaps you have had them before as a part of a vegetarian entree ordered at a fine restaurant in lieu of the escargot. The pasta primavera was a little bland as you recall, but the chef did manage to cook the colorful vegetables on your plate to lovely perfection.

You have had them in Japanese restaurants, sitting around the lovely little fish pond watching the goldfish pick specks of floating vegetation from between the slimy penny covered rocks. A plate of crisp tempura at your place setting revealed edges of purple, yellow and green from where the batter was torn open, and you proudly announced that you could identify every vegetable on your plate.

You remember liking the eggplant Parmesan and batter fried zucchini that you would order from the Italian restaurants, and the ratatouille cooked out of a vegetarian cookbook at a friends.

Here is a salad featuring these three abundant characters (summer squash, zucchini and eggplant), to add to your collection of memories.

First salt the eggplant. Slice off four giant circles and lay them flat on a paper towel. Sprinkle them with salt and let them sit for a bit, until they begin sweating brown liquid from their pores. You are helping them to detoxify. When the beads of perspiration have gathered into little puddles blot them with a towel.

Slice them into bite sized pieces. In a frying pan, add 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 cup sliced red onions. Allow the pan to get really hot before adding the eggplant. After the eggplant has been added, it is time to start moving quickly. Keep an eye/nose/ear on the eggplant, so that it doesn't burn. If your knife skills are iffy, you may want to turn the heat down.

Mince 2 cloves of garlic and add to the eggplant. Now dice 1/2 yellow summer squash and add it to the pan. Dice 1 small zucchini and add it in. The order is important. Cook everything to your preferred texture (I learned today that Christina likes her eggplant thoroughly cooked while I like mine a little firm. It is very disconcerting to watch someone literally spit out their first bite of eggplant after you have just worked to make it just the way you like it. If you plan to cook eggplant for an audience you are going to need to wear your thickest skin.) When it is done, turn the heat off and allow the vegetables to cool. Add some diced cherry tomatoes, quartered.

The dressing (This sauce is really good on sandwiches or as a vegetable dip): Mix together 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar, 8 drops soy sauce, 1 tsp thyme (or some chopped fresh basil).

Christina's vote: "This salad made me feel generous"

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