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Salad days

Some days, you just want a salad. And sometimes, those some days are every day, especially when they fall near the end of June, and when the thermometer outside is stuck at the “hot and sticky” mark, and when you’ve been in the process of moving into a new apartment for, oh, the past ten of them. Around here, those are the kinds of days that we’ve been having. Salad days, or sort of.

Regular readers will know by this point that Brandon and I eat a lot of salad. Between the two of us, we could keep a small farm in business. The first meal that we ever shared was a salad—of shredded baby bok choy, ramp leaves, and avocado, to be precise, with a baguette and a disk of Mt. Tam on the side—and since then, it’s become a regular habit. Most of the time, in fact, we don’t so much cook together as assemble. This could be a bit disconcerting for two people who claim to be decent cooks, but really, it’s not bad. Come summer, food is best with minimal fussing, anyway, and no matter the time of year, a good salad is nothing to scoff at.

So for the past several days, we’ve been letting our salad tendency run amok. Since the night of Brandon’s arrival, we’ve been busy moving into a new apartment—or a little house, really, with an office for me and a workbench for him—and in our honor, Seattle has pulled out all the stops where sunshine is concerned. It’s a blessing, I guess, but of the very mixed variety: it’s been h - o - t hot, all-caps HOT, no air-conditioning hot, hot as in Kool & The Gang’s “Too Hot.” I mean hot. It’s sweaty, dirty, nasty stuff, even before all the boxes and the bags and the dust. It’s the sort of thing that screams for salad and beer.

And so we answer—or rather, Brandon does. While I open the beers and set the table, he starts to work on a salad that, he tells me, has been a standby in his repertoire for a while. It could hardly be simpler: chopped romaine, cherry tomatoes, a palmful of paper-thin red onion slices, and a crumbled chunk of Greek feta. The dressing, too, couldn’t be easier—just lime juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt—but from there, it’s alchemy. What results is bright, kicky, and laced with garlic, a spark to liven up romaine’s cool, watery crunch.

All told, a bowl of this stuff is almost as refreshing as a dip in the pool: cold, a little puckery, now-creamy, now-crisp. And with only minimal assembly required, it’s the IKEA bookshelf of the salad world, you could say. Trust me, after the past few days, I know plenty about both.

Summer Romaine Salad with Lime-Garlic Dressing

I’m not normally a fan of romaine, but this salad has made me reconsider. Put together the light, bright crunch of romaine with the light, bright flavor of a lime-based dressing, and you’ve got a proverbial match made in heaven. To this, you could add nearly anything, but we keep it simple with a few halved cherry tomatoes, some red onion, and a handful of tangy feta. It’s a stripped-down, slightly tweaked Greek salad of sorts, but better: cool, easy, and just the thing for a hot summer night.

For dressing:
3 Tbs plus 1 tsp fresh lime juice
5 Tbs good-tasting olive oil
¼ tsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp fine sea salt

For salad:
Romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and cut with a chef’s knife into rough ½-inch strips
Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Slivered red onion
Greek feta

First, make the dressing. In a small bowl or jar, combine the lime juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt. Whisk until emulsified, and set aside.

In a salad bowl, combine romaine, cherry tomatoes, and red onion in whatever proportions you like. Toss with dressing to taste, and top with plenty of feta. Serve.

Note: Dressing keeps, covered and chilled, for up to a week.


Anonymous J. Bo said...

Salad days, indeed-- I haven't wanted to even boil water for coffee, it's been so hot here, too.

Didn't Alice Waters once say that her ideal restaurant would be one where the customer is simply sent out to the garden with a basket? Toss in some good bread and olive oil and I'd be first in line at that door.

Happy new home, Molly and Brandon!

11:46 AM, June 29, 2006  
Anonymous Tanna said...

I'm all over it. On our table tomorrow night!

11:48 AM, June 29, 2006  
Blogger Dianka said...

Love your descriptions! Looks like a great salad!

11:54 AM, June 29, 2006  
Anonymous Luisa said...

A house? A HOUSE? I am agog and a-melting with envy. I can't wait to hear more about it. xx

2:53 PM, June 29, 2006  
Anonymous Katie said...

The salad looks good.. but I just have to mention that as I'm writing I'm enjoying a DELICIOUS chocolate walnut cookie that I found in your archives. It's stinkin' hot in North Carolina also, but never too hot for chocolate cookies! As long as the air conditioning is on full blast in the kitchen...

I've been following your blog for a while and loving it... Congrats on your engagement!

3:05 PM, June 29, 2006  
Blogger Ana Blackburn said...

Oh Molly, you don't even know that you have saved me from so many nights where I was being petulant and thought a salad wasn't going to make for a substantial *meal*. Now I have no excuse, I just add a poached egg and volia!

Though this is the sort of this I will probably stick with cold chicken...

4:03 PM, June 29, 2006  
Blogger emily said...

Long time reader, first time poster since I started a site of my own - but your writing and food has never failed to inspire. What a gorgeous looking salad - the lime dressing seems like a great variation for summer.
Good luck with the new house, and a belated congratulations on your engagement.

4:22 PM, June 29, 2006  
Blogger Alice Q said...

Hi Molly! - Congratulations on the move, though it can't be much fun in the heat. It's stretching all the way down to San Diego - it's in the 90s here and has been all week.

This is funny to me, because we are exactly the same way. Salad, bread, cheese wine, what more do you need?

Check out my recent post for the writeup and pictures on the donut muffins - I included a link.

- Alice

4:47 PM, June 29, 2006  
Blogger astillac said...

Hah, I read your blog from my mind! I made a nice salad for dinner tonight too. This one looks lovely... I think I'll try it tomorrow.

Are you guys sticking in the Seattle area? What are some good areas? Alex and I were planning on moving up there (from Sacramento, bleeah) to find a nice art school for me, a good job for him, and a decent proximity to the ocean.... where should I even begin to look? The internet is not being terribly helpful.

8:10 PM, June 29, 2006  
Blogger lobstersquad said...

I´m incapable of assembling even the simplest shelve from Ikea, but this salad I think I can definitely cope with, and will. Looks just´s what´s needed for July.

1:28 AM, June 30, 2006  
Anonymous GoobernGrape said...

as a frequent salad eater-- you can turn anything into a salad-- these are definitely salad days.

my online dictionary says:
salad days; plural noun (one's salad days),
• the period when one is young and inexperienced
• the peak or heyday of something
ORIGIN from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra ( i. v. 72).

pretty timely, eh?

so, dont forget about salads with poached eggs on em!
mesclun greens, poached, CGC's St. Pat cheese, shallot-champagne vinaigrette, mustard crouton, black pepper.
i cant stop buying eggs from the farmer's market.
yay eggs!

5:38 PM, June 30, 2006  
Blogger Natalia said...

I love to eat salad in the summer. It's the perfect light meal. This one, with that tangy limey dressing, looks great. I will definitely be trying it!

10:00 PM, June 30, 2006  
Blogger Roland St. Jude said...

Looks good! And pretty similar to the salads I've been making every night for the last few weeks. Like you, I'm becoming reacquainted with the summery goodness of romaine. Thanks (to both of you, I guess) for this simple salad. I can't wait to try it!

12:06 AM, July 01, 2006  
Blogger Garrett said...

Check out the Zuni Cookbook and it's fantastic salads. They are truly quite awesome.
Rob and I often enjoy a simple salad of rocket (or dandelion greens), oranges, dates, and proscuitto, maybe some toaste almonds as well.
It makes for an easy and flavorful meal indeed!

3:47 PM, July 01, 2006  
Blogger Tony said...

It can be a little odd reading blogs from the northern hemisphere particularly when talking about salad days when it is winter.

I will have to wait another 6 months to enjoy some of the summer salads you are craving.

Similarly, here is my most favourite salad (modified and courtesy of the genius of Alice Waters) that could be difficult to make in Seattle at least until the autumn:

Slice some bread into battons, wrap with prosciutto and grill.
Toss together sliced fresh figs and muscadel grapes with red radicchio/Treviso. Dress with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (truffle if extravagant) and garnish with the prosciutto batons.

Salty, sweet, spicy, bitter and savoury. This is the closest that european style food gets to the ideals of Thai cooking...

1:41 AM, July 02, 2006  
Anonymous jules said...

I'm with Tony...reading this from the middle of winter is really making me jealous...
If you feel like escaping for a winter experience you could always drop by my site...

1:11 AM, July 03, 2006  
Blogger christine said...

I try to bring a salad to work whenever I can, at least 3x a week. Thank you for giving me another version to try, since I'm getting a little tired of my usual mixed greens w/arugula and raspberry vinaigrette. :)

8:46 AM, July 03, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, J.Bo! And as for the ingenious Alice Waters, I'd be right next to you in line...

Glad to hear it, Tanna. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we do!

Thank you, Dianka!

Luisa, I know! The renter's market in Seattle does have its small wonders. Ours is not really an entire house, but rather a duplex in a house. The house is split right now the middle, though, rather than by levels, so it feels like a little entity in itself. We have a bedroom, kitchen, living room, bathroom, etc. on the ground floor, and then we have a daylight basement with a second bedroom, washer and drier, and finished garage-type area for Brandon to set up a big, manly workbench. And a side patio AND a yard! And cheap! It's almost paradise, I tell you. And with room for guests too...

Katie, I'm so glad to hear that you found the cookies - and that you, like me, think it's never too hot for baking something chocolatey! I almost fired up the oven this weekend, actually, for a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies - but then the ice cream in the freezer pulled me away.

Ana Blackburn, this salad would be really delicious with some cold roasted chicken. Come to think of it, I wish I had some lying around myself.

Thank you, Emily, and congratulations to you on your new site!

Alice, amen to all that: cheese, wine, bread, salad! [Sounds an awful lot like my dinner tonight, actually!] And as for your doughnut muffins, they're beautiful. I'll have to try your cinnamon sugar version - it's a lovely variation!

Astillac, you know what they say about great minds! And as for Seattle, hmmm. It depends on what kind of neighborhood you might like, where you want to go to school, and whether you want to rent or buy. Seattle is full of little neighborhoods - not unlike San Francisco, say - and each is quite different. So that I don't blather on endlessly here, how about you send me an e-mail, and I'll see if I can dredge up a few suggestions or starting points? Sound good?

Lobstersquad, I hear you on those IKEA things - sometimes the assembly is FAR more trouble than it's worth. Ooof. But this salad, on the contrary, is worth every second - and it doesn't take many, at that! Hope you enjoy it.

GoobernGrape, you always have the tastiest suggestions. Hot damn! How could I forget my poached eggs?

From our Kitchen, I hope this salad hits the spot! I just hopped over to your site, and it looks as though you've been making some pretty little salads too. I'd take a plate of your "mini" Caprese any day.

Roland, you're very welcome. And big cheers for romaine!

Garrett, thanks for reminding me of my old faithful Zuni Cookbook! I sometimes forget about the salads in there, and you're right - they're exquisite. The salad you mention sounds delicious - so many good flavors on a single plate!

Tony, that salad sounds sensational. And I'll bet Brandon would love it too - minus the prosciutto, of course. [That means there's more for me!] Thank you.

I will, Jules! Your site is beautiful, by the way. And I love the look of those almond puddings you made last month...

It's my pleasure, Christine!

2:44 PM, July 03, 2006  
Blogger Sara said...

Hi Molly,
you are such a talented writer and have such a great blog. It is a pleasure to read! And, of course, your 'To Brandon with Nutmeg'entry made me cry! very sweet. I wish you the best.

9:34 AM, July 04, 2006  
Blogger sarahww said...

Fabulous and tangy - thanks for the idea. Adding toasted pine nuts is a winner, too.

4:52 PM, July 05, 2006  
Anonymous elle said...

Hi-Just found your blog in a little magazine that came with the San Francisco Chronicle-very nice. Did you see it?? We just had a chinese chicken salad tonight...so tasty and fresh.

8:07 PM, July 05, 2006  
Blogger Janice said...

Just discovered your lovely (and addictive) blog! Very happy to hear of your engagement, especially since I know what it's like to be in a very long distance relationship myself. Congrats!

For another simple salad, I like one from Citizen Cake-- hearts of romaine, chunky bits of bacon, cool slices of radish, and a buttermilk bleu cheese dressing. Delish!

4:27 AM, July 06, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Aww, thank you, Sara!

You're most welcome, sarahww. And your addition of toasted pine nuts sounds wonderful! We'll have to try that next time...

Hello there, elle - so glad that you made your way over here! Say, could you tell me which magazine that was, and when it came out? I don't think I've seen it, and you've piqued my curiosity...

Thank you for the congrats, Janice, and for telling me about that Citizen Cake salad. It sounds heavenly. I just ate lunch, but my stomach is grumbling a little, just thinking of it!

2:12 PM, July 06, 2006  
Anonymous Keshet said...

I know this is years later, but I have to say - I ADORE this salad. If I could write a thousand-page epic saga to this salad, I would.

Thank you for this salad, thank you for the dozens of other incredible dishes you have brought into my life!

9:13 PM, April 10, 2010  
Anonymous Jenn said...

Hi, Molly. I know this recipe is old, but I made it tonight and loooved it. It's been extremely hot the last few days, and this really did hit the spot. Something about the alchemy of the ingredients is just perfect--the feta/lime/onion combo is amazing. Just wanted to say thanks for helping me find something that actually sounded (and tasted) good when it's 100 degrees out!

3:46 PM, June 24, 2015  

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