8.01.2012

all the stars


"I know!" he proposed. "Why don't we all take naps, and then tonight you can work on your blog and I can go see the new Batman movie?"

The nap part sounded nice. But there's this thing that has happened around me and writing and this blog. I don't want to do it at 11pm anymore, which has been my modus operandi since I started writing here. I don't want to sit bleary-eyed in front of the computer at the tail end of an exhausting day, forcing myself to push out legible sentences. (Which, by the light of the following morning, are never as legible as I'd thought.) I want to give myself permission to relax a bit after working so hard, to read a book or pull up an episode of The Daily Show or even - incredibly - go to bed early without feeling guilty. I want down time, and I want it at the end of the day, when my body itself is naturally cycling down, along with the rest of my house and the world outside, when even my favorite radio station has switched over to the kind of mellow, contemplative programming that goes best with a glass of wine and soft, gentle lighting, without a side of self-induced pressure to work.

So when Josh suggested I schedule some writing time that night, after the boys were asleep and he was off to a late-night movie? I felt something inside me tense up and take a step back, refusing to commit. I didn't tell him that, though. Instead I made excuses, about how I don't have any good recipes to give you, and haven't been taking any pictures related to food, and the only post that I've been working on lately is rambling longer and longer, when really it all boils down to two sentences. (This is, in fact, all true. And to spare you from having to read my insufferable blabbering, here are those two lines: I'm so sorry, I haven't meant to stay away from the blog for so long, it just happened without my having time to notice it. My life, what with summer and kids and the restaurant and hen-raising, is ridiculously, overwhelmingly busy and exhausting and often frantic right now. There you go; now you're getting two blog posts in one.)

What I should have said was, "If the rest of my house is going to be sleeping, in the middle of an afternoon in which there is nowhere I am required to be, no less, then that is when I want to be writing. Plus there is the fact that the rain has just started up again, so I need to make a cup of lapsang souchong tea, which, as everyone knows, is the best-ultimate type of tea to drink on rainy days, particularly quiet ones. And also, there are wild blueberries on the kitchen counter, gifted to us by my just-departed in-laws, and I would love to be alone as I gorge on them, so as not to have to share with the little fingers that squish the neighboring fruit as they dig around for the perfect handful."

I should have said all that. Instead, I did all that. And it has been lovely.

For you, in this spirit of taking advantage of any and all available downtime, I'm presenting images from a recent (i.e. several weeks ago, which really does feel recent, given the pace of our lives) sail we took with a friend, when all the stars lined up and gave us free time and beautiful weather and happy children and chilled rosé. There is nothing like being on a classic, old boat sailing away from the shore (along with everything waiting for you at home), to remind you that your only job right now is to relax and enjoy yourself. May we all be reminded of that more often.

(There is also some food-related stuff down at the bottom. Not actually a true recipe as such, but more like a food chat, instructions and inspiration if you're looking for that type of thing. And it's about really satisfying food and the type of meal you can eat for days on end without tiring of it, so it's got that going for it.)















Bringing Back the Supper Salad


The other evening, in the middle of feeling defeated once more by the crushing pace of our days, I somehow managed to get a second wind. (Or it might have been my eighteenth, but who's counting?) Instead of tackling the mountain of laundry, or forcing the mower through the calf-high grass, I used the energy to make sure that dinner would not again be a randomly thrown-together, hurriedly-eaten affair, one best forgotten as soon as it was over. I gave myself permission to think for a moment about what I most felt like eating, and promptly decided to make a salad. Growing up, I remember having many salad-for-supper nights. I'm not sure why I'd apparently forgotten that option still exists, though Kalen's dismissal of all things "salad" can certainly explain part of it. No matter, I emphatically want this to be part of our summer meal rotation now. But while the dinner salads of my youth were heavy on veggies from our garden, with cubes of cheddar cheese tossed in for protein and lots of Catalina dressing poured over it all, I unfortunately have no garden this year, and besides, what I was craving that night was a little more refined.

Our local grocery store chain sells an "herb salad mix" that has a wide variety of baby greens in it, things like tat-soi and kale and two kinds of chard and mizuna, all of it punctuated by tufts of parsley and lacy dill. I am usually very picky about where I'll accept the addition of dill, but I have discovered that I love it — in fact I adore it — in my salad. It's zingy and green and earthy in all the best ways, and to date it's complemented everything I've scattered on top of it. Put some dill in your next salad. It's better than you can imagine.

With a fluffy pile of this salad mix as my starting point, I looked around to see what else I had. An avocado, three pieces of bacon, two ears of corn, and half a dozen eggs. Perfect. In retrospect, I would have preferred the corn cut off the cob raw and sprinkled over the salad, to give it a bit more crunch and sweet pop. But the boys like their corn steamed, so that they can gnaw away at the cobs. You've got to give in to your kids somewhere, I figured.

The biggest accomplishment of this salad for me was the eye-opening experience of a perfect soft-boiled egg. Creamy and more custardy than a hard-cooked egg, without the underlying fear of that glob of uncooked egg white that sometimes hides inside a poached egg, this is the egg I want on all my salads from here on out. I used the technique explained here, and have no need to elaborate on it; it is without reproach. I, on the other hand, received a stern self-talking-to, for having ignored this vantage point of egg consumption for so long.

While the eggs cooked, I had just enough time to throw together a vinaigrette. Good olive oil, white balsamic vinegar (classic recipes will advise a 3:1 ratio; I always go a bit heavier on the vinegar), a clove or two of crushed garlic, some mustard powder, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper all went into a canning jar, and a vigorous shake brought them together in a quick emulsion that held its shape just long enough to get it onto the greens. Topped with a still-warm egg, it was just the salad I'd needed, and the one I've been pining after ever since.

What have been your favorite salads this summer?

 
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