“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist – the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know how much oil one must mix with one’s vinegar.”
– Oscar Wilde
Beets were used in the previous citrus and beet salad
What truly makes a good salad anyway? How do you tell if you are in the presence of a good one? More importantly how do you make one that is excellent?
In my opinion, what differentiates a good salad from a passable one is a couple of things; the harmony of tastes and textures you fold together under an unctuous drizzled coating of flavourful liquid and the ratio of the liquid to solid ingredients. These two are key. Get it right and the salad could be sweet, sour, bitter, spicy or any combination thereof and it will still work.
There is then, a secondary tier of things to remember. It is important that you source your greens well. There is a case to be made for pillow packs of greens; if you’re in a hurry, have no access to anything else and more importantly, intend to use the packet within a day or so of buying it, by all means, go ahead and use one. However, if this is what you use all the time, then you’re missing out on one of life’s simple pleasures; the first, cool, crisp bite of leaves that are new to your taste buds. Those convenient vacuum sealed packs only have a set variety of leaves and I don’t know about you, but to me a mixture of three different kinds of lettuce is not much different from just one kind of lettuce. I like a good Caesar salad as much as the next person (well, may be not as much. The next person here and now is my husband. His insane devotion to Caesar salad confounds me) but there is so much more joy to be had in the peppery bite of arugula or the spicy snap of cress or the salty tang of an unusual leaf. Such greens I would never have discovered in pillow packs.
I was once told that you start at the beginning, continue to the end, then stop. Then you do the same with the next task. This is how things get done. Wise words, when it comes to writing, but hard to do. Especially when this bright and lovely thing that I’m sharing with you today doesn’t start at its beginning but at the beginning of my week.
It seems that griping about past weather did the trick, because what a glorious week we’ve had weather-wise. Personally, it could have been one out of those old silent era comic movies. Someone having a bad week would have been considerably cheered up with a glimpse into mine. Talk about comic relief.
An unusual bout of insomnia has me falling asleep too late and waking up too early for a couple of weeks now. Last week, this offered me the opportunity to get into more trouble than I normally do, which aiming to please, I did. On Monday morning, I woke up at five, decided to make dinner for the evening while trying to call my cousin in New Zealand. I’m probably the only person in the history of dinner who burnt it at six a.m.
Tuesday, I almost got run over. Not the driver’s fault; no one should be looking at the sky and thinking about Rottweilers and Retrievers when she’s crossing the street. Wednesday is a bit of a blur in my head. There’s a good chance I might have told someone that he sucked. Also, I missed a perfectly good chicken and waffles dinner with friends since I was otherwise occupied with trying to kill my too-slow work computer.
I did not succeed.
As a transplant from another place, you reach a point in your life when you think you’ve gotten a handle on things, culinarily speaking. The cooking and consumption of foods from your original home strikes a somewhat fragile balance with foods you’ve grown to love in your adopted home. You’ve tried most of what is on offer here and have gathered together all the food you miss from there. Or you think you did.
Then out of the blue, the balance shifts. A word, an image, a smell…and something stirs in your memories.
It is not like I had forgotten all about this dish. I came across the straightforward recipe often in my precious file of mom’s recipes. Yet I passed it over because of its simplicity, engrossed in the pursuit of the more flamboyant and vibrant ones. While my mind was engaged in chicken curries and palak paneers, this one sort of got lost in plain sight. Now, I realize that it has been ten years since I last ate this dish. How did I go that long without craving it?
The last time I enjoyed it, I was sitting in my mother’s kitchen. It was a day before I was about to leave for the other side of the world. It was also the day my mom finally told me how much she was going to miss me. All this time, for over a year, she had been brave about the decision her erstwhile stay-at-home middle daughter had made to leave. Videoconferencing wasn’t yet the norm and she wouldn’t see me for a long time. For a whole month leading up to the day, she had been cooking all my favourite things. There were so many last meals I requested because I love practically everything my mom makes and knew I would miss it all. I’d already made my way over the culinary map, home food and restaurants, as I knew it then. My bags were packed to bursting with mom’s pickles and snacks, my uncle’s veggie patties and chicken cutlets (he’d dropped them off just earlier that morning as he stopped by to wish me luck). These would extend the old-home experience a bit more in the new place I was to call home. I was excited and scared and sorry to leave all at the same time.
When I started this blog earlier this year, Amey took up a hobby he’s always had a latent interest in.
We’re short on the square footage so all he could have for his first foray into gardening was the little window ledge above our kitchen sink. I like to think my blog naming choice factored into what his first project was. But truth be told, that was decided by some really hot (we’re talking bright lights flashing all over the Scoville scale) chillies we happened to find at the Indian store one day. He carefully saved the seeds from capsaicin riddled beauties and tossed them into a seedling pot with a fervent prayer.
A slow two weeks went by with no results…
After a frantic consultation with the omnipresent gods of instruction on the WWW, we came to the conclusion that (thanks to some quite flawed direction from yours truly) he had put the seeds too deep into the soil. Careful digging unearthed a couple of sprouted seedlings struggling to find daylight. Words of reproach and apology were bandied at large and the seedlings were replanted just barely beneath the surface of the soil.