Life is different when you live out in the country. There's no traffic, neighbors, gang activity, or building codes! You can spend eight years putting up a big metal barn, leave doors unlocked, crank the music, and let your seven donkeys bray through the night. You can have seven donkeys in the first place.
On the other hand, there's no mail delivery, cell phone reception, 911 service, or high-speed internet connection.
People who visit our Missouri farm have one of two reactions. It's either, "Wow, I would love to live in a place like this!" or "How do you stand living out here? And where do you get a cappuccino at three o'clock in the morning?" Most men say something like, "This is great, but my wife would hate it."
It's a tradeoff, and one I'm happy to make, except for the supermarket part. Having our own little espresso machine helps. But dashing out to the store for some cilantro or limes is not an option. It took me three weeks to get the Kalamata olives for this salad.
You learn to adapt—and go without. My definition of seasonal eating? Stuff yourself with whatever there is plenty of, like the eight pounds of Swiss chard I recently harvested from the greenhouse. Or the 30 jalapeno plants, 20 eggplant plants, and 250 feet of potatoes I (for some crazy reason) planted in 1995, my first gardening year in the country.
I learned to really appreciate the bounty of summer, which is at its height right now, and the fresh ingredients in this scrumptious main-course salad are all in season in many places. I used arugula, parsley, thyme, and red onions from my garden, and some new red potatoes from our Amish neighbors.
If you don't live on a farm, you'll probably be able to find everything in one good market. If not, it's worth a little running around.
If you are a gardener, this peppery, fast growing green is easy to grow from seed, and extremely good for you. Arugula prefers cool weather, but this year I tried growing a spicier, heat-tolerant strain called rucola selvatica. It did really well, despite several days above 100°.
If you can't find arugula, romaine lettuce would work well too. My favorite romaine is an heirloom variety called Parris Island Cos, great-tasting and amazingly heat tolerant.
New potatoes are simply the first young, thin-skinned potatoes dug up when the plants start to flower and eaten straight from the ground, rather than cured first. Look for this seasonal treat at farmers' markets.Arugula Salad with Pan-Fried Herbed Potatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Feta Cheese & Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette
Adapted from Fine Cooking. Serves 4 as a light main course or 6 as a starter.
The combination of ingredients and the vinaigrette are what's most important here, not specific amounts. Once you've made the recipe, you'll be able to toss everything together more quickly the next time.
These crisp potatoes taste great on their own, and the flavorful dressing is nice on other greens too. Use what you have: regular potatoes will work fine, as will yellow or white onions. A combination of those cute little yellow and red pear tomatoes would look very pretty here. Chunks of larger tomatoes will give you a juicier salad.
To make this a more substantial meal, add some slices of leftover grilled chicken or steak. As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients. They really do make a difference.
8 ounces baby arugula (about 12 loosely packed cups), washed and spun dry (or chopped romaine lettuce)
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives (about 15), finely chopped
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon plus 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, divided
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic (optional)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons water
1 pound red or Yukon Gold new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely diced red onion
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1 scant cup)
8 ounces small ripe cherry (or grape or pear) tomatoes, halved (1 heaping cup)
Optional: Grilled chicken or steak
Place the arugula in a large bowl.
In a food processor (I use the small inset bowl on my big food processor), pulse the vinegar, olives, mustard, 1 teaspoon of the thyme, and the garlic (if using). While processing, slowly pour in 1/2 cup of the olive oil and 3 tablespoons of water. (You can make the dressing ahead of time or while the potatoes are cooking.)
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 10-inch or 12-inch skillet (I love cast iron) over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds. Add the diced potatoes, sprinkle them with the salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes start to get brown and crisp, about 10 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it's soft and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and the remaining tablespoon of thyme. Salt to taste.
Toss the arugula with about half of the vinaigrette; you want it lightly coated. Portion the arugula onto four (or six) plates. Top it with the potato and onion mixture, the meat if using, and then the feta and tomatoes. Drizzle each plate with some of the remaining vinaigrette (you may not need it all) and serve.
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