Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunny Day Salad

Today was a day where my two loves of sunny, warm weather and good food collided. Whenever these two things happen simultaneously, I have a hard time expressing my happiness and excitement of what is occurring in the moment. I'm either so engrossed in the moment that I can't speak, or you can't shut me up since I keep repeating how amazing the weather is and how delicious the food tastes. My mantra usually consists of phrases like "I live for this..." or "Where else would you rather be?" or "Could you ask for anything more right now? No!" over and over again. My friends have learned to smile and nod, but I have to say most of the time they agree.

Today was one of the warmest days we've had recently, and it convinced me that spring, even summer!, is truly on the horizon. The morning was cloudy, but the afternoon sun came out just in time for lunch. I crouched down and stuck my hand in the fridge hoping to scrummage around for something decent enough to call lunch. An almost empty bag of spinach...the last of a bunch of kale...a red pepper...some grated carrots...oh! watercress! Things were looking up.

I started adding things to a large salad bowl, looking forward to the fresh tastes in my future. I knew though that I would need something more to really round out the meal, and remembered that there were some leftover roasted veggies from last night's dinner still in the fridge. Baby yukon and red potatoes, parsnips, and carrots, all roasted to crisp-on-the-outside-soft-and-smooth-on-the-inside perfection with hints of fresh thyme and rosemary. After a quick reheat in the toaster-oven they were tossed in the bowl as well, with their heat slightly wilting the greens.

I could barely resist eating the whole thing at the counter with my fingers. I restrained myself though, knowing that a salad of this stature deserved a worthy vinaigrette. I quickly whisked together my favorite dressing to make, mustard based of course, and perked it up with freshly chopped thyme - again, left over from the night before. It always fascinates me how oddly satisfying it is to efficiently use leftovers.

One final toss in the bowl after the vinaigrette drizzle and I hustled to the patio. I sat down and felt the warm sun on my shoulders. Ahh, oh so nice. For some reason I always close my eyes when warm sun first hits me...maybe my body's convinced that it feels even warmer that way. When I opened my eyes I looked down to my lunch and the same sunlight was perfectly highlighting every bursting color in my bowl. I'm pretty sure I started talking to the bowl at this point..."You are stunning!" I of course ran back into the house to grab my camera. Looking back, maybe it was a good thing I was alone.

My first few bites were even more satisfying than I anticipated. Flavors were pronounced and mingling perfectly; the spiciness of the dijon in the background of the dressing against the peppery watercress, the woodsy thyme with the hearty greens, the raw refreshment of the peppers and carrots balancing the savory cooked root veggies. This is the only way to enjoy food, I thought. No distractions, no rushing, a peaceful setting where you are actually able to taste every part of what youre eating, and realize why it tastes the way it does and why youre enjoying it so much. Of course, we all don't have sunny patios available for us at every meal we eat. But, I do believe making a moment free of 'world static' dedicated to enjoying your food makes a world of a difference. We all have to eat, so why not give food the same attention we give to other life essentials? After all, if you respect your food, it will respect you back.

Here is the recipe for the vinaigrette, so you can enjoy a similar experience on your next sunny lunch.

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk all ingredients except oil together in a bowl. Then slowly pour the oil into the bowl, vigorously whisking at the same time so the vinaigrette emulsifies and combines evenly.

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