Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Spicy Caprese Salad

When feeling uncertain, uncomfortable, or socially awkward, I find that the best thing to do is to wash dishes. I am not the greatest dishwasher, for which I blame my mother because, growing up, she always offered to wash the dishes if I cooked dinner. I stood in the back of the coffee stand at the farmers market. It was one of my first days on the job, and though I was hired to coordinate demos and report on the radio, I found myself eagerly offering to wash the dishes almost instantly. My boss, who has a background in marketing, likes to introduce me to people, and heavily emphasizes my education. While my credentials may be impressive to her, the farmers know better. To the farmers, the hours that I spend sitting at my desk reading, or researching articles online, represent hours missed working with the plants. To them, my degree program is more a symbol of my lack of experience than of my high qualifications, even though I am studying nutrition. So said the cheese man, who is a former researcher and biochemistry PhD. "No offense" he said "but I make it a point not to hang around with you university types anymore. You don't realize how much you don't know, and are missing. I was a researcher, but I got bored with that. I gave it up to study cheese. Cheese is a moving target... blah blah blah blah" he went on. 'You don't understand.' I wanted to say 'I'm not like them. I'm one of you. I just haven't settled in to my place here yet.'Instead the words came out like this, "Could you excuse me, I have some dishes to wash" and I backed away slowly. In the kitchen I overheard a farmer telling my boss's daughter about high tunnel farming(see link below for article on high tunnel farming).

It is because of high tunnel farming that we have Minnesota tomatoes, grown outdoors in the ground, this early in the season. We also have chubs, which are basically pickling cucumbers grown past their regular harvest time. What we don't have at the farmers market right now, are pickling cucumbers. Why not, you ask? The answer is that nobody will buy them now, because it is not pickling season yet. Food is one area where our culture is slow to catch up with our tecnology. When a new food product is engineered, cultural rules must be abided if the product is to sell. "People seem to forget that their local farmers are trying to make a living, sometimes we have to get creative. People won't buy pickling cucmbers now, so we grow them out longer and call them 'chubs'". The salad below was made with high tunnel tomatoes, which can be found right now at the farmers market. They are delicious!

Spicy Caprese Salad (The watercress gives it spice. If you don't like spice use arugula for a peppery variation, or sorrel for a lemony one.)

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Add salt and pepper
Whisk in 1/2 cup slivered basil
2 chopped garlic scapes
1 slice diced red onion
1 cup chopped watercress (for spice)

lay out mixture on a plate and add 1 sliced high tunnel tomato. Serve with toast.

Christina's vote: "This salad made me feel right-justified"

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