Thursday, October 24, 2013

Do Not Read Until July (Or January ...)

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It started with this salad. Back in July, that’s when I started thinking about writing a food blog. As a result, there is one thing you must have for this salad: summertime! 

My friends at Sonoma Harvest gave me a bottle of their Meyer Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oilwhich is simply delicious all by itself. But, I knew that I also wanted to try this oil in a vinaigrette.  Plus, as you will see, virtually every thing I cook involves olive oil . . . and salt & pepper.  

Most of my cooking the past four months has consisted mainly of olive oil, salt & pepper and some of the bounty of  Quarter Acre Farm. We belong to the Quarter Acre Farm CSA and back in July Andrea included purslane, lemon cucumbers, chives, and lemon basil in our share. You may have seen purslane growing in your yard; I know I have. (Purslane is a weed so you know it has got to be good for you, right?) In fact, it actually has more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable. Here is what Andrea had to say about purslane.
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“I love purslane because it is a nutritional power house, some may even call it a super food. It contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant. Purslane is also high in vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, and vitamin B-6." 
"Purslane is somewhat crunchy and has a slight lemony taste, some people liken it to watercress or spinach. The stems, leaves, and flower buds of purslane are all edible. It may be used fresh, stir-fried, or cooked as spinach is (because of its high water content purslane cooks down quite a bit).”
This recipe is already vegetarian and vegan. If you'd like to make it gluten-free, I think it would be delicious to add more purslane, or spinach, and just leave the bread out. You also won't need the full amount of vinaigrette, so drizzle a small amount over until it is dressed to your liking.

A few notes about technique, and mind you, I am very much a home cook. My dad and my brother are professional chefs (more on that later). I don't have to think about food costs, and ordering for the week, and mass appeal, and the execution of a dish at 7:30 pm on a Saturday night.  I absorbed a lot of little techniques over the years (like how to properly dice an onion) from growing up above my folks' restaurant, and from just watching my Dad cook. I have some good knife skills (thanks Dad) but no, my avocado in this salad was not a perfect large dice. And by the way, avocados that are just ripe are best here -- if they are really soft, go ahead and save them for guacamole, or a smoothie.

But there is one thing I have in common with professional chefs: I taste, taste, and then taste some more. I taste each peach when I cut it. If the peach is mealy or not flavorful, I don't use it. I taste the bread after it is toasted to make sure it is crisp but not hard. I taste the vinaigrette and then taste the whole thing when its tossed together -- usually I add a bit more salt & pepper. If the salad seems a bit too dry I add a bit more orange juice. The thing is, if the individual ingredients you put into your recipe don't taste good, then, well, the whole darn thing isn't going to taste good.

So fresh tasty ingredients + olive oil + salt & pepper + lots of tasting along the way = delicious.

(And fear not Northern Hemisphere friends, I will re-post in July.)

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