Saturday, July 31, 2010

No Need For Dressing Salad

"Emily, how are you?" Tammy said, as she dropped off a bag of completely foreign looking greens. It's not often that somebody outdoes me at picking obscure produce, so I was very excited about MCing Tammy's demo at the farmers market. Tammy is the owner and chef at Rainbow Chinese restaurant. Everybody at the market knows and loves her. As an outsider coming in to the community, I had always just assumed that this was because Tammy walks around feeding everybody. That was before I had tried her cooking. Tammy, doesn't just make food, she performs alchemy.

"You will help me today, right?" Tammy asked. This I was also excited for. Tammy helped me with my first ever demo, the one where I cut my finger and had to cook with a giant bandage on my hand in front of a large crowd. She stood behind me and executed my recipe with elegance and skill as though she had done it a hundred times.
"Of course I will" I responded. "How can I help?"
"Pick off these basil leaves" She responded, and handed me a bunch of Thai basil. Tammy worked next to me, on a batch of sweet potato leaves. She kept asking me questions, and methodically picking off the leaves as though prepping with me were her sole reason for being there today.

Vines, fruits, and flowers covered the entire stainless steel table where we were setting up. She had giant daikon radishes that looked like white swords, globes of light green cucumbers, warty looking bitter melons, tangles of sweet potato vines, and dark purple carrots. It was exactly the sort of set up I would love to have, but at the last minute I always seem to chicken out and grab a couple of modest ingredients that I think people will be more comfortable with.

"Do you have a set of knives here?" Tammy asked, looking me directly in the eye while julienning some carrots with impeccable speed and precision. She chopped Asian style, by slicing straight down as opposed to rocking her knife. I hope someday to acquire her level of skill. She told me that she has been the chef at Rainbow for over 20 years. When I told her she didn't look old enough for that to be true, she told me it was her fathers idea to open the restaurant. I wonder if Tammy had grown into her love for cooking, or if her father had recognized her passion and insisted that she have a venue. I suspected the latter.

"I am going to make a couple of dishes for you today that I don't have on my menu. This is fancy food, not every day Chinese food." She said into her microphone, as she tossed a large handful of potato leaves into a wok. Everyone laughed, and she looked up and smiled. "no really, it is. Trust me." Potato leaves only cost a dollar at the market, only because most people have never tried them and don't know how to use them. They are rich and decadent with a meaty flavor similar to artichokes.

I could go on for hours about the fun I had today, but instead I will stop here and feed you with this simple salad featuring some local fresh produce from the market.

No Need For Dressing Salad
2 of your favorite heirloom tomatoes
2 unique varieties of cucumbers
1 small bunch of basil (about 1/2 cup chopped)
drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Christina's vote: "This conjured memories of Persian rummy in Iran"

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