I have a friend who, at the end of ski season, assessing the toll of too many fries and cheeseburgers and not enough training, used to wish for a week on an island with a bag of oranges. I’m feeling her pain. But as much as I need it, I’m not getting that island.
I am, however, going to Mexico in a mere three weeks. As if that hard deadline wasn’t daunting enough, the Title Nine catalog arrived. For me that catalog is usually about 30 percent inspiring and 70 percent depressing. Given my circumstances, however, I’m trying to embrace the inspirational aspect of seeing the hard-bodied microbiologist/organic baker/pro surfer/mother-of-four riding her skateboard to the beach in a cute clingy dress.
This is the long way of saying that it’s salad week here. I had this salad last week at my sister’s house in CA, where Meyer lemons are free for the taking off neighborhood trees. Pure fantasy. It comes from an old issue of Cook’s Country, an off-shoot of the notoriously meticulous Cook’s Illustrated. I included the link but forget about getting any free content from these cats.
Cook’s Country tests the hell out of every recipe, which means two things: a. Every recipe is the most perfect version of what it can be; and b. you have to follow the recipe exactly. This is not a problem for my sister, who gives her recipes the respect they deserve, but it is an issue for a serial slacker like myself. Not surprisingly her version turned out way better than mine, so I’ve added some cautionary notes (in italics) based on my freelancing. My version was still darned good, but hers was better. And if you’re going to be eating salads for three weeks they might as well be as good as they can be.
Speaking of salads, now is a great time to try the kale and brussels sprouts salad if you haven’t already. It’s more of a fall thing, but it’s green and fibrous and delicious, all of which work for spring.
In a leap of faith and a show of hope, I sent back the swim dress/muu-muu and ordered board shorts and a suit. We’ll see how it goes.
Minty Snap Pea Salad
- 1 ½ pounds sugar snap peas, stems snapped and strings removed (Not all of them require snapping and stringing, but do take out the guess work and weigh them at the store)
- salt and pepper
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 1 small shallot minced
- 1 tsp grated zest plus juice from 1 lemon (Meyer, Meyer, Meyer if possible. you know my deal by now)
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard (regular, not the last of the honey dijon)
- 1 tsp honey
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
Peas: Combine 4 cups water and 4 cups ice in a large bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add peas and 1 Tbsp salt (regular, not kosher) and cook until crisp tender, about 2 minutes (I overdid mine by about a minute. Not ideal). Drain peas then transfer to ice bath and cool completely (yeah, they mean completely. If they are the tiniest bit warm the goat cheese shmoozes over everything instead of keeping its crumbly integrity.) Remove peas from water, pat dry with kitchen towel (drying is also key to cheese/pea interface) and cut in half crosswise. At this point the peas can be refrigerated in a Ziploc bag for up to two days.
Dress salad: Whisk mint, shallot lemon zest and juice, mustard, honey and oil in a large bowl. Add peas and cheese to bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper (remember the seasoning step). Serve chilled or at room temperature. The salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 1 day.
Make it all ahead and bring it. Or, if you need to prep it ahead, bring peas, dressing and cheese in separate containers and combine before serving.