musings about food, travel, creativity and life

Garden Gifts

“To have a basic ingredient that can be prepared a million different ways is a beautiful thing.”

                                                                               Alice Waters


One of my morning rituals is to walk to our little garden, smile at the beauty, water the plants, and talk to them. And most evenings, I return to fetch some lettuce, arugula, and a few kale leaves for our nightly salad.

About a month ago, just as our modest lettuce harvest was beginning, I read a description of a new Chronicle book called Salad Party. It looked fun and different so I impulse-bought it. I’m glad I did.

Written by Kristy Mucci, it has an unusual format that appeals to the child, artist and foodie in me. It is a board book of sorts, spiral bound, satisfying to hold and colorful to look at with beautiful illustrations by Ophelia Pang.

Each page is divided into three panels. The bottom section is devoted to the “bases” for the salad, like lettuce, arugula, quinoa; the middle third is for toppings like haricots verts or garlicky shrimp; the top is for dressings. Each section has thirty recipes and each is accompanied by an illustration. I can flip and pick, “mix and match” and come up with 3375 different combinations.  

The first combination I created had a base of tender lettuces, the topping of rainbow carrot ribbons (a first for me), and a dressing of maple and mustard vinaigrette (another first). Last night’s “flip” brought me to arugula as my base, mushrooms with shallots and thyme as the topping, and a dressing of tamari and mustard.

Both were simple and good combinations, with, for the most part, easily accessible ingredients. But, of course, if you don’t have one ingredient, as the author says, “…at the end of the day, there are no rules. Have fun combining these recipes, and enjoy.”

That’s what I’m doing. Right now, being grounded by the earth’s bounty is a gift and creating from this playful book is fun.  How lucky I am.

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