When Luke and I moved back to the US from England three years ago, the thing we agreed we were looking forward to the most about being settled for a while was, oddly enough, having a garden. It became an obsession, really. From our apartment overlooking the city of Bristol, we (fine, I) searched real-estate listings of cheap old farmsteads in rural parts of my home state. We didn’t really have any intention of buying and settling down on a farm of all places — being, as we are, slightly phobic of the word “settled” — but the idea did appeal at the time. We were coming to the end of one season — being students, living abroad, traveling, owning very little — and moving into another — marriage, work, building nests — where the thought of cozying down with someone and making a home, even for these nomads, had a certain appeal. And chief among them, was having our own garden. Hard to do when you’re living from a suitcase. We’ve had two somewhat successful gardens in three years, which are not bad odds, me thinks. Actually, I’m including this year’s garden as one of the two, so I hope it doesn’t go and die now that I’ve said that. Even if it does, we will have enjoyed a number of tasty salads, not to mention the countless uses we’ve found for basil, parsley and mint (Juleps, I’m looking at you).
Back from vacation and not wanting to get in the car again to drive to the grocery store (I know, life is hard), it was a pleasure to be able to forage a healthy and tasty meal right from our back door. Homemade dressing could easily become my thing, y’all. This one combines the tangy, dillyness of champagne mustard with the sweetness of strawberry jam (I know, right? Brilliant!). Fresh minced shallots give it a kick and good olive oil holds it all together. Throw on some chickpeas from a can or, in our case, thawed from a hummus-ready batch in the freezer, plus some fresh mozzarella, olive and tomatoes, and you have yourself a delicious and super healthy (let’s not mention that strawberry jam) post-vacation lunch.
Who can say how long this putting down roots business will last? There’s been talk for a while now about the next chapter — and, no, I don’t mean babies. All the more reason to enjoy the fruits of this season we’re currently in.
Green Garden Salad Tips (I can’t call this a recipe, can I? I mean, it’s salad.)
A handful each of spinach, baby kale, and baby swiss chard.
A combined handful of mint, Thai basil and Italian basil, to taste — herbs in salad is the secret to happiness.
Wash greens. Throw into a big salad bowl. Slice 1/2 one red onion (or to taste). Add to greens. Two tomatoes cut into eights. A few Kalmata olives. Toss all together.
Fill two plates with salad. Add a few spoonfuls of cooked, salted chickpeas. Tear a few slices of mozzarella over each salad.
Brassy Strawberry-Mustard Dressing
(“brassy” because, don’t know if you noticed but I’m obsessed with Braswell’s condiments. You guys! The empties can be used as classy European-looking drink wear.)
2 teaspoons of your favorite Dijion mustard.
1-2 teaspoons of strawberry jam
3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil (coconut would be beautiful, too)
1/2 shallot minced
black pepper to taste
Mix into a creamy (not runny) consistency. Better if allowed to sit in the fridge over night. Eat up!