Monday, April 20, 2009

April Heat Wave Brings May....?

It is still April, right? Mother Nature is confused, it seems, and so am I as I sit here in my sun dappled living room, wilted like the spring flowers in my garden. Outside, the mercury is hovering around the century mark, and indoors it is not much better...okay I'm exaggerating a bit, because it is only 81 degrees. In my house. In April. On CNN tonight as Lou Dobbs was listing off California's ailments, the current heatwave was lumped in along with the budget deficits, unemployment rate (over 11%!!), and housing market. The worst part about it is that we are already experiencing a serious drought, with many localities facing steep rate hikes or rationing, so these high temperatures are just adding insult to injury.

Sunday, at the farmers' market, I asked my favorite farmer if they had any cilantro with the root still attached. He told me that they couldn't harvest it that way right now, because it requires too much water to be able to pull the plant up by its roots, and that their farm's water supply had been rationed. It is going to be a long, hot, and dry summer I fear. A summer without cilantro roots. But aren't these sweet peas lovely? I bought them at the farmers' market...3 bunches for $6.

On days like today, summer days usually, I really, really don't feel like cooking, or even eating. But it's easy enough to make a salad for dinner using up some fresh and bright spring produce (sugar snaps, scallions and strawberries), and when it's topped with grilled chicken breasts and a sprinkle of salty crisped prosciutto (elitist bacon bits I like to call them) it makes for a fine main course. The salad dressing is studded with toasted white and black sesame seeds and is so delicious it is hard not to eat by itself.

It was a late dinner tonight, with the boys not returning from baseball practice until after seven. You wouldn't believe how tempting the lovely chopped ingredients at-the-ready were....especially the crispy pile of prosciutto. I did as Julia for me, one for the bowl. Thankfully our early summer should come to an abrupt halt by this weekend, when temperatures are expected to be some thirty-five degrees cooler. Thank goodness for that!

Sesame Dressing

1 T sesame oil
1/2 T Dijon mustard
1 T soy sauce
1/4 C red wine vinegar
1/4 C sugar or honey
1/2 C vegetable oil
1 T minced shallot
1 T toasted white sesame seeds
1 T toasted black sesame seeds

Place all ingredients into a smallish lidded container. Shake vigorously until combined.

Spring Salad with Strawberries

Place 1 C chopped snap peas (de-stringed), 1 C sliced strawberries, and 4 chopped scallions into a large salad bowl. Toss with 5 oz. of mixed baby lettuce (1 bag). Top with 1/4 C toasted slivered almonds, 4 oz. prosciutto (crisped in a frying pan and cut into chunks) and 2 sliced, cooled grilled chicken breasts. Toss with enough dressing to just moisten, taking care not to drown the tender lettuce leaves. Serve immediately.

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