A salad which might pickpocket expectations


She comes in the room without an invitation. Her face warming, bright and punctuated with sparkling green eyes. Decked in a flower dress and curly auburn hair. Her gaze changes the party. Guests shed jackets and formalities. Lips no longer hold back smiles. The icy wind leaves. And the promise of clinking glasses signal the start to a season of laughter.

Cucumber and nectarine salad

Cucumber and nectarine salad

Her name is Summer. She does not wait for the longest day of the year. She joins when she damn well means to. And departs just at capriciously.

It is wise to enjoy her company while she’s here.

Radio stations ride the edge of banality and discord. Research indicates that audiences both love and hate songs they know. At some point, the novel becomes the ordinary. The music doesn’t change. Our familiarity does.

To keep radio programs fresh and listeners tuned in, music directors inject new songs surgically. The formula is simple: to add an unfamiliar song, surround it with nostalgia. Songs which are well understood. One just before. One just after. (The Power of Habit; Why We do What we Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg, chapter 7)

Raw ingredients

Raw ingredients

These are universal principles, not industry tricks.

Cucumbers, tomatoes and onion with a vinaigrette. Summer has arrived. Now the spin.

Taste the salad of cucumber, white-flesh nectarines and mint in your mind.

The description might have you bristle. And yet the pattern is familiar.

We forget that cucumbers and tomatoes are fruit. Doubt this fact? High school biology class tells us that the carbohydrate load which surrounds seeds is undoubtedly fruit.

We merely play with expectations in this dish.  We cast Tom Hanks in the role instead of Tom Cruise.

The recipe is simple.

  1. Seed and roughly chop fresh cucumbers into cubes. Farm fresh produce works best. For a bit of finesse, drag a vegetable peeler down the length of the cuke leaving space between your pulls. Do this before you seed and chop. This leaves long stripes down the length and lifts away some of the bitterness in the peel.
  2. De-pit white-flesh nectarines. Chop into pieces roughly the same size as the cucumbers. The fruit should be close to ripe but not all the way so. Firmness counts. When the fruit expresses juice too freely, then find other fruit. Standard orange-flesh nectarines may work as well. However white nectarines reduces the color contrast and increases the subtlety. If you are sneaking into the room, don’t wear bright colors.  Use 1/2 as much nectarines to cucumbers.
  3. Dress with walnut oil and champagne vinegar. Other oil and vinegar combinations work.  However champagne vinegar heightens tang without creating a murky finish that red-wine or balsamic vinegar might. Walnut oil provides intrigue with a nutty finish. We would recommend to splash some extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO).  The herbal quality of EVOO tricks out the dish as well.
  4. Slice red onion razor thin. Fruit like this needs a tiger whip.  Acid from vinegar helps. The sulfur bite of aromatic onion seals the deal. Treat as a seasoning, not a main ingredient.
  5. Season with salt and pepper
  6. Finely chop fresh mint. Or basil. Add to the bowl in an amount that matches your eye. 4 cups of salad might warrant 4 tablespoons of chopped herbs.
  7. Toss and let rest for an hour or two in the refrigerator.
Finished product

Finished product

Serve semi chilled.

The salad will not keep overnight. Eventually the fruit breaks down from the salt. So let the ingredients frolic together but not spend the night out.

Let the dish welcome Summer’s warm embrace. Let it brighten up a heavy lunch of brisket or smoked chicken. Let it wink from across the room.

It might just become the new old favorite.

 

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