Fresh Pea & Watercress Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Whole Wheat Pasta Tossed with Lemon, Olive Oil, and Parmesan
Cod Cheeks Fried in Olive Oil
What do I love best about summer? Maybe it's fresh local vegetables and fruit. No, not maybe. Definitely. I took some of these photos as soon as I came home from the Portland Farmers' Market yesterday. The peas are in--and they are gorgeous. Dinner had to feature them, along with local radishes, watercress, scallions . . . and so much more.
And so a salad was in order. First, the vinaigrette. When I know we'll be eating the whole salad in one sitting, I usually make my dressing right in the bowl. I always use the same cracked, well-loved, wooden bowl. This recipe is for a large salad for two or side salads for three or four.
First, I smash a garlic clove and rub it all over the inside of the bowl. I set the clove aside and save it to chop up for another dish.
Next, I squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. To that I add 2-3 tablespoons of really fruity extra virgin olive oil. I love Aria for salads. It's a Greek oil that's fruity and just a little grassy. It goes well with lemons. Then I spoon in a teaspoon or so of dijon mustard and a half teaspoon of raw honey.
Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, then whisk.
The result is a creamy, tangy, and slightly sweet dressing. If you always use the same wooden bowl for your salads, and you rub it with garlic each time you make dressing (rather than adding minced garlic), you will get incredible depth of flavor in all your dressings. I make many kinds of dressing, but this lemony one is my favorite in summer. To it, you can add any herbs you like as well. I tend to leave my fresh herbs in large pieces and I toss them right in with the salad.
So, on top of the dressing I added lots of watercress, a few handfuls of quickly blanched peas (I blanch them for about a minute then shock them with ice water to stop the cooking), thinly sliced radishes, roughly chopped mint and basil, a chopped scallion, and some shaved parmigiano reggiano.
Finally, I toss the whole thing to coat. Confession: when it's just Mr. Magpie and me, we share it straight out of the bowl. Who needs plates?
And last night we dipped in our dressing the most amazing pita bread I've ever eaten. Just look at those pillows of floury goodness! They are made by a local Portland baker, Ariel's Hummus, so if you live in Maine and want some incredible pita and hummus, stop by their table at the Wednesday market in Monument Square.
Along with the salad and pita, I floured some cod cheeks and fried them in olive oil (not extra virgin, just ordinary cooking olive oil). I kept them simple, just seasoning them with salt and pepper and squeezing a little lemon over them at the end. I know it sounds weird to eat cod cheeks, but I promise you that they are delicious, tender, and flaky. About the size of scallops, they have a very mild flavor that won't smell or taste "fishy," even to people who are a little afraid of seafood. You can get them at any good fish market. I buy mine at Harbor Fish Market.
Last, but definitely not least, we had the quintessential summer dessert: strawberry shortcake. For me, this means the strawberries go on top of biscuits--not cake, not sweet biscuits. Just buttermilk biscuits. And I have to whip my own cream with a little sugar and vanilla. No cream from a spray can. I'm a
control freak purist.
These strawberries came from Jordan's Farm in Cape Elizabeth. That place is a little piece of heaven.
Speaking of heaven, we've got more strawberries in the kitchen, so I'm off to eat some straight from the bowl. Wishing my American friends a Happy Fourth of July weekend! We have a houseful of nieces and nephews coming. There will be baseball, two sets of fireworks, the beach, and, I'm sure, many, many practical jokes. Should be a blast--literally and figuratively. Hope you have a happy, safe holiday.