The O’Regan household has just sustained a terrible loss—our oven, our faithful, bread and pizza and baked goods-producing oven has died. Plus, our friend, the master of all appliances, is on vacation until the middle of June. We are in a major crisis! The first thing my mom whispers to me when she realizes it’s died: “We have to come up with a good excuse to go to San Francisco for Tartine bread!”
I happened to be the one using the oven when it died. There I was, placing balls of chocolate chip cookie dough onto a tray, when my mom noticed that the oven, despite supposedly preheating for twenty minutes, was barely hotter than room temperature. After a stunned moment of silence, I sprang into action.
“Tyler, are you home?” I asked our neighbor-slash-friend, desperately. A few minutes later, I found myself walking down the street, balancing a cookie tray in each hand, looking harassed and keeping an eye open for cookie thieves.
The cookies, after a long wait for the oven to preheat, came out perfectly. Plus, I got to have a chat with Tyler while the cookies were baking, which is always wonderful. To top it off, I was only fifteen minutes late to the CrossFit Santa Cruz pool party, the cookies’ destination.
I got there feeling like there wasn’t a chance I would take off my clothes for any pool, Santa Cruz being shrouded in fog as it usually is in the summertime, but Scotts Valley was, as I should have known it would be, pleasantly warm. Surrounded by good friends and plenty of food, I felt like it was summer for the first time since break began. I didn’t even have to get up to serve myself—Quan, being the great guy that he is, brought a tray around every time the barbecue released its latest round of sausage, steak, or hamburger. It was like being at a poolside restaurant.
My mom, being who she is, brought a salad because, in her words, “No one EVER brings a salad.” And she was right—her salad was the only one in sight. This one was particularly good, as it boasted quite a few slices of apricots amongst the lettuce and feta.
Everyone should have a delicious default salad—a good salad can be incredibly easy to make. I will say that in order to attain the best salad possible, you must get your lettuce from a Farmer’s Market because supermarkets simply don’t stock lettuce as fresh as the markets’. My mom has gone to her lettuce producer, Steve, for years. She swears by his lettuce, and I think it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. Bailey loves Steve: she particularly loves noticing when Steve’s lettuce is in the salad—”Is this Steve’s?”—but she’s always right because whether the answer is “no,” or “yes,” she will reply with, “I thought so.”
The weekend ended with a lovely pre-birthday dinner for Jonji, which was yet another excuse to get together and eat copious amounts of good food. Oh, and cake and ice cream. I could get used to this weekly tradition.
Vinaigrette is never measured at our house, so I will estimate how much we use in the following recipe. The important thing to remember is that the olive oil is generally twice the amount of vinegar, so it’s very easy to change the serving size. A lot of people are intimidated by the thought of making vinaigrette, and if all you know is based off the back of a store-bought vinaigrette bottle, I understand. There’s no need for a lot of ingredients: in fact, you could use two or three ingredients and have an absolutely wonderful salad. My go-to is balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt. Experiment with different vinegars, there are plenty to choose from!
Green Salad, Summer Edition
6 heads baby lettuce (romaine, butter, or any other baby lettuce will do)
a good hunk of feta
4 apricots, pitted and sliced
a couple handfuls of toasted almonds, roughly 1/2 cup
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 cup champagne vinegar
1/8 cup lemon juice, or more to your liking
1 tsp honey
couple pinches of salt
Carefully wash and tear the lettuce, then dry in a salad spinner.* Place in a large bowl. Crumble feta over the lettuce, then toss in the slices of apricots. Chop almonds roughly and sprinkle over the lettuce. Set aside.
For the vinaigrette: Pour vinegar and lemon juice into a medium-sized jar. Add honey. Pour olive oil over it (the jar should contain 1/3 vinegar/lemon juice and 2/3 oil, roughly). Add a couple generous pinches of salt. Put the lid on the jar and shake until you have a homogenous mixture.
Right before you sit down to eat, pour 3/4 of the dressing over the salad and toss, making sure each leaf has a light coating of dressing. If the salad is too dry, use the remainder of the dressing.
*My mom has a regimen for washing lettuce, which includes washing each leaf and inspecting it carefully before placing in a water bath. I like to inspect the first few leaves, then tear the entire head in half before washing all of it at once. You can choose your favorite method, but don’t be lazy—dirt can ruin a salad’s texture!