Friday, August 6, 2010

Let's Talk Salad with Fruit

Well, last time I talked about wanting to eat bread and muffins because of cool weather. Then summer arrived! I have been making lots of salads this summer, and in them, fruit! I know this is not revolutionary. We have been seeing fruit in salad for many summers now, but it seemed too odd to me. Until now. I still can't go with strawberry or watermelon, but I did some peach and plum recently. The verdict? Delightful. It all has to do with the Universal Salad Equation:

Creamy+nutty/meaty+acid+sweet+tart/bitter+x = Good Salad

Avocado fulfills creamy, as above - that, or a nice cheese. I think if the cheese is a bleu it counts as umami, i.e. the x factor. You must have nuts. I have decided that they positively make a salad. Actually, you can use beans instead of nuts, getting a similar effect. If you candy nuts, two parts of the equation are taken care of. Lemon can function as the acid in the dressing. The sweet can be a little fruit, caramelized onions, honey in the dressing, something. The greens will give you tart/bitter. I like arugula for almost any salad - it goes well with fruit ...oooooh, and beets. For bitter, radicchio will do the job - another item I discovered for myself this summer.

I find that I can barely stand a salad without nuts in it these days. Which reminds me of the Sarouhans. My family used to go to the Sarouhans' house around Christmas every year, or every other because I guess we alternated hosting. E, the head chef at the Sarouhans, would put out the same hors d'oeuvres every time: salted peanuts, and an orange-yellow-nutted cheese log with crackers. There might have been something else, but that's all I recall. Right before she served the salad, E would dump the leftover nuts in it. I thought her behavior was downright malicious and I avoided each and every nut in my serving. Now, I totally get it.
I put this salad on a homemade pizza with goat cheese.

The fruit must be sweet. These were organic plums, so I felt good about them, but not very tasty, so at the same time every bite made me mad. I don't think it's full plum season anyway. I seem to recall that plums are more August - late and into September. I think. Last summer I found an awesome plum purveyor at the Lake City Farmers Market. He had several varieties of plum hybrids. So good.

Speaking of farmers markets, I just really want a European market experience. I realized this when I read French Women Don't Get Fat, and then recalled my experience in Spain when I lived there so many years ago. I was initially appalled when I was told to be careful of touching the produce in Spain. What would happen, I wanted to know. I need to choose my fruit; surely the vendors won't pick good ones. Oh, how wrong I was. Here and now, as there and then, I want to be asked, "When do you want to eat these? I will give you these for today and these need two days. Be sure to have a nice glass of champagne and some cheese alongside. " Instead I get to pick my own and maybe they ripen and maybe they don't; maybe they are as tasty as the sample, and maybe they are mealy. I know we like to be independent here in the States, but ... but ... I want to be helped at the farmers market. Handing me a bag does not count as helping.

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