Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Summer Garden Salad

Yesterday a chilly wind blew through our open windows and doors,  relentlessly all day, presaging fall's inevitable approach. It's warmer today, but the span of daylight is shortening, and summer is definitely on its way out.

The good news is that we still have plenty of produce coming forth from the garden--life's uncompromising messages of love--zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes of various shapes and sizes.

You think you work so hard to make this possible, digging, building, planting, watering, yet nothing anyone can do will guarantee the bounty that just magically appears--sweetly, eloquently, perfectly.

There's a line in the I Ching that says something like, "The host attracts the guests by his willingness to receive them." I can't think of a more appropriate way to state what a gardener does than comparing it to a host's preparation for his guests, especially that pre-welcoming empty space he creates, that only the guest can fill. Full disclosure: I'm not a gardener; my wife is, but the small part I've played in creating our garden has given me this insight.

As summer begins its downward trajectory, I feel more than ever the urgency to enjoy its last fruits--the irreplaceable ones that come from where I live, from just outside my window, and not by boat and truck from somewhere in the southern hemisphere. Soon we'll have to bring our herbs and lettuces indoors again, restarting our "bathtub garden" for the cold months ahead. But for now, I'm savoring every mouthful of our open-air garden's last vernal blush.

I composed a salad yesterday, using some of our cucumbers, peppers, and different types of tomatoes, along with a few items from our local Natural Grocers. It was one of several versions I like to make of the simple Israeli salad, this one with a Lebanese-inspired dressing (I hope the two factions will see in this a bridge, and not an affront!).

It only took a few minutes to cut and combine cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, red onion, avocados, and cilantro, in a bowl with garbanzos. I dressed the salad with a light "taratour" sauce, made by pounding garlic and salt together in a mortar to a smooth paste, and then working in fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and Udo's DHA Oil, forming a thin emulsion. Then I added spoonfuls of tahini, stirring and pounding until smooth and creamy. I love using a mortar. It's like going back to the dawn of civilization.

I had never made a salad with different varieties of tomatoes before (how could that be possible, after cooking for 30-plus years?), but the combination was an added dimension of pleasure. The larger ones I had cut into juicy bite-size pieces, whereas the cherry tomatoes I left intact to explode between our teeth. The taste differences were also remarkable. You can't really tell from the picture at the top, but that slightly lighter color tomato in the center is actually a gorgeous orange, as it appears in the shot of the salad. And it's not just the color; the taste of that orange tomato is unbelievable--as different from the red ones as a Pink Lady apple is from a Granny Smith.

How often it is, at times like these, that I hear in my head Louis Armstrong's baritone, "...and I think to myself, what a wonderful world!"

Ooh, yeah.


1 comment:

  1. Made this last night. Left out the cucumbers; replaced with Kalamata olives. Very yum! Very, very yum!