Toasted hominy and avocado salad

Toasted hominy salad

It seems to me that we usually have a string of days in June that are perfect. The air is creamy and cool and full of sweet wildflower smells and sharp lemony grassy ferny smells. It’s a little warm in the afternoon, maybe, but in the morning and evening you want to sit and bathe in the sweet air. You want to be aware of how lovely the air is at this moment, because it doesn’t happen very often. It’s so easy to notice when it’s freezing, or broiling, or insufferably humid. But this unsurpassable perfection, this ultimate air, as my boys would say, is easy to overlook. For some reason, when the air is like this, it makes me think about flying. I think about flying a lot, actually. Not with my rational brain (precious little of that!) but in dreams, and now and then through the day. We went on a bike ride this morning, and that feels like flying. We ride on a towpath between the canal and the river. The towpath is raised considerably above the water on either side, in most places, so as you ride birds will swoop along next to you, and you’ll feel like you’re flying with them. This morning we saw a turtle in the glowing brown water – head out, rough, wrinkled legs swirling in the water. It looked like a remarkably pleasant thing to do. That’s what this air feels like! Sometimes, as I’m walking, I’ll sense the weight of the air on my arms, and I’ll swoosh them up slightly, feeling the air move all around them, and I almost feel as though I very nearly know what it might be like to take off in flight. I told David this and he asked if I’d been eating any of the unidentified herbs in the garden. Heh heh. Try it! Here’s a diagram…

1. stand with your arms at your sides, relaxed.
2. Press your hands backwards sllighty – maybe a foot – with a slightly curved motion
3. Swoop them slowly forward – not too far, just like a dog begging, maybe. It’s all about the swoop, I think.

Anyway – you don’t want to be inside too long cooking on a day like this, so you want to make a quick and delicious and substantial salad, such as this one. A perfectly ripe avocado is a thing of wonder, too. In this dish, we find such an avocado combined with tomatoes, cilantro, basil, salad burnet (which tastes like cucumbers – fresh!), hominy that’s been toasted with sage and oregano, and a chipotle balsamic sort of dressing. Toasted hominy is nice – it doesn’t get puffy or crispy, but it crackles and pops while it cooks. The warmth of it makes the tomatoes and olive oil lovely and fragrant and just a little soft. We ate this with basmati rice, fresh farm lettuce, and homemade tortilla chips (that’s a flour tortilla sliced in triangles and lightly fried in olive oil). But you could easily eat it with warm soft tortillas.

Here’s Flying Birds by RZA. It sounds like wings pulling through the weight of the air!
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Two spring salads

Asparagus castelvetrano salad

A big part of my brain is telling me to “just post the damn recipe, Claire!” But when have I ever listened to my brain? Rarely! So here we go…Yesterday I rambled on about nutella and sweets and American’s eating habits. Well, of course I have more to say on the subject. Let’s begin ten years ago. I worked in a bookstore. I was amazed at the number of diet books. And the number of weird diet books. Eat your colors, eat your horoscope, only eat carbohydrates, don’t eat carbohydrates, don’t eat green beans on Tuesday, eat only cheese and grapefruit, eat only chocolate chip cookies and cider vinegar. I joked, at the time, that I was going to write a book called “The DUH Diet.” There are some ideas about eating that just make sense (to me!), and they’re not new ideas or revolutionary ideas. They’re not eating habits that are difficult to live with. I love Satchel Paige’s Rules for Long Life, so I’m going to present a few of these commonplace, commonsense ideas in this form. (I should note that this applies mostly to Americans, because that’s mostly what I know.) Ready? Begin…

1. Enjoy every bite you eat. Don’t stuff something down your throat that you don’t really like the taste of–that you don’t really have a hankering for–just because it’s mealtime or you’re hungry or it’s sitting in front of you. It’s okay to feel hungry once in a while, as you wait for the food you really want. Most of us go through life snacking whenever our stomachs get a little grumbly. Let yourself feel hungry before a meal. It’ll wake you up! You’ll enjoy it more.

2. Drink lots of water. Good for every part of you.

3. Eat cookies and potato chips if you feel like it, but enjoy them. Eat a handful, not a bagful.

4. Satchel said avoid fried meats. I’d say avoid all meat, or try to go easy on it. Bad for the animal, bad for the planet, bad for your body, bad for your soul.

5. Never ever go to McDonalds or any other fast food restaurant, unless you need to use their toilet. Bad for the planet, bad for every part of you.

6. Enjoy rich foods, like buttery, cheesy savory pastries, but have that be a small part of your meal, and eat a big salad with it, or a big bowl of soup. Fill up on fruits and vegetables.

7. Satchel said “jangle gently as you walk,” which I love. Do it every day! Go for a walk, or a run, or jump around your living room. Get your heart beating, and your blood flowing.

I guess that’s it, for now. Sorry to get all preachy on you. But it’s all stuff everybody knows anyway, right? Duh.

Anyway, in the interest of loading up on vegetables, which is part of tenet number 6, let me tell you about these two salads. I make a salad almost every night, but I rarely talk about them because they’re gone before I can make a record of their existence.

These two seemed notable, though. The first had royal trumpet mushrooms. These had become a questing food for me ever since my friend Neil told me about them. Neil’s in Germany, and he called them “king trumpet.” I think the version we have in America is called “royal trumpet.” Either way, I found them, by accident, in a local market. The same market that had fiddleheads. It’s a magical market! I decided to keep it simple, this first time, so I sauteed them with rosemary and a bit of garlic, olive oil and balsamic. Then I put them on a salad with

Royal trumpet mushroom salad

spinach and arugula, and added a handful of chopped hazelnuts. And that was it! They were delicious. They became lovely and crispy. I’ll definitely be having these again. The second had bright green asparagus, bright green castelvetrano olives, capers, almonds and a little goat cheese. Simple and green and crunchy.

Here’s Louis Armstrong Tight Like That to go with the trumpet mushrooms. I think it’s such a perfect song!
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Arugula salad with asparagus and herbed hazelnut crusted goat cheese

Asparagus Salad

You know how they’re saying now that certain stores secretly monitor your buying habits? I have a suspicion that the grocery store is spying on my vegetable-buying patterns! Last week I just couldn’t bring myself to buy “winter” vegetables. I love you, cauliflower and winter squash, but enough is enough! So I bought summer squash, and eggplant. Well, I went back this week, and asparagus was on sale! Highly supsect, highly suspect! In all seriousness, I try to buy veggies that are somewhat in season. But I’m kidding myself if I think that the winter squash I buy at the grocery store was grown anywhere near here, this time of year. Right? So I bought the asparagus. Lovely, bright green, pencil-thin! I bought some baby arugula, too. What lovely, nutty, green flavors, so nice together! I lightly steamed the asparagus, lightly dressed the arugula with olive oil and balsamic. And then I made these little goat cheese croutons. I flattened little discs of goat cheese, coated them in ground hazelnuts, rosemary and thyme, and I toasted them for a few minutes, till they were brown and bubbly on the edges. Yum! I sprinkled some leftover hazelnut/herb mixture over for a bit more crunch. Threw in some grape tomatoes for color and sweetness, and that was it! A spring fever salad for February. Green and glowing!

Here’s The Carter Family with When Springtime Comes Again. Sweet and yodelly.