Thursday, January 28, 2010

Schizophrenic Salad

I made a craaazzzy salad last night.  This salad was my personal culinary Frankenstein.

I began with good intentions.  I have this thing about salads – I like them to be all one color whenever possible.  If I’m making a red salad, for example, I’ll layer various red vegetables.  I like the play on textures that the red on red creates.

Last night, I decided to create a GREEN salad.  I came up with a list of green salad items:

green olives
peas
zucchini
green peppers
green chilies
pumpkin seeds
avocado
green onion
cucumbers
asparagus
edamame
chopped granny smith apples
fresh artichokes
fennel
green beans
green grapes
granny smith apples
pepperoncini peppers
broccoli
bok choy
kale
spinach
arugula
romaine lettuce
endive
green lentils
lime
okra
kiwi
cabbage
brussel sprouts
honeydew melon
celery
too many herbs to list

Then, I decided to make this a more traditional southern salad, like the ones I was accustomed to growing up.  So I stuck with just:

Mixed greens
Green olives
Green peppers
Green onion
Halved green grapes
Chopped granny smith apples
Steamed and blanched haricots verts (we say this when we wanna be fancy talking about green beans)
Avocado
Cucumbers
Toasted green pumpkin seeds
Pepperoncini peppers

I then pounded out chicken breasts, topped them with cheddar cheese (cause we’re going traditional American here) and sealed the cheese in with prosciutto (non-traditional, but there is no substitute).  I sautéed the chicken and it came out wonderfully, with a crispy prosciutto crust and melted cheese oozing on the inside (recipe inspired by Jamie Oliver). I sliced this delicious meat… and put it on the salad.

Oh yeah… and I made homemade whole wheat croutons, both fried and baked.

I made a quick balsamic vinaigrette but the salad didn’t need it because, well, there was a lot going on there already.

Utter chaos.  The ingredients competed with each other, and my taste buds weren’t sure what was going on.  First I tasted olives and cheese, then I tasted avocado and olives, then apples.  It just didn’t blend.

Next time I am tempted to go ingredient overload, I’ll remember to select 2 or 3 main ingredients, and let them compliment each other.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lists

When my grandmother (that's her on the right) died, I discovered she was a master list-maker.  She died four years ago, in her sleep, up until which time she was sharp as a tack.

Our family went through her belongings, and that’s when we discovered the lists, along with an astonishing stockpile of toothpaste.  She had stashed lists in shoeboxes, between the pages of books, and in her desk drawers.  I had a sudden image of my grandmomma leaning over in her recliner chair to jot something down in her notebook, and a puzzle piece slid silently into place in my mind.  All those years I’d never consciously asked myself what she was writing, and now I knew.

She kept lists of Braves players, Characters on the Love Boat, and scents of potpourri she owned: peach, cinnamon, and apple.  She kept lists of cards, phone calls, and visits she’d received.

Everyone speculated that she’d written all that stuff as a way of keeping her brain sharp.  After all, she never displayed the slightest whiff of senility.  But I disagreed.

I think she wrote those things for fun.  She was a human being, and as such employed her natural desire for organization to that information that made her happy.  Little things, like our favorite T.V. shows, possessions, or people, are fun to dwell on.  In our heads, they are nice thoughts.  On paper, pleasant thoughts become more concrete.

List-making is most certainly an inherited inclination.  I’ve made arbitrary lists all my life.  Once, sitting in the waiting room at my doctor’s office, I made a list of every single solitary food item in my kitchen.  I love to cook, so my list was one of possibilities.  I felt like a squirrel who had stockpiled plenty of nuts for the winter and knew she, her family, and any spontaneous dinner party attendant would be well fed.