Some people fall into a groove. I fling.
Then I reach for a spade, really put my back into it, and digdigdig until I can't quite see the light. I love it there, in the deep underneath, earth dark and cool and fantastically dank. But it has been pointed out to me, once or twice, that I might maybe sometimes overdo.
Take Poppy. In January, I concluded the Poppy (pattern here) I made for Zoë's 3rd birthday was overdue a new wardrobe. She had just the two dresses she arrived with, and Zoë was coming up on another birthday herself, and, well. Two dresses. Two years. Surely you see it, too?
I set to work.
I cut out one smock, and another, and then another. Because making things in multiples is so simple, you know? Same pattern, same seams, autopilot territory.
And then I cut out some pants, one-two-three. Because smocks without pants are like chocolate without peanut butter.
And then, I made the happy discovery that pants cut for five-year-olds from one-yard lengths yield scraps perfectly sized for Poppy pants. Sweet!
And more tunics to go with.
(To give you a sense of where we're at, were I a mouse, I'd be asking for a straw about now, but would not yet have trimmed my hair, or swept, or fetched crayons, or napped. Or, asked after another cookie.)
Let's just say Poppy scored.
She wound up with pants which matched most of Zoë's, pears and polka-dots and paisleys. She has smocks cut from pajama scraps, and old quilting cottons from my childhood, and tiny 2T dresses once worn by my girl, re-purposed to rag doll proportions.
There were white pants of thick Irish linen, cut from an old hole-riddled $1 runner. A Downtown Abbey-era bit of lace I've had since high school, and adored, and admired, and wondered what on earth to do with, raised its hand and suggested itself for a little blue, brass-buttoned smock. I accepted. The antique pink tea towel with extraordinary appliqué—and the pox of indelible spots—finally found its purpose in life. Cut carefully, add buttons strategically, and voilà! Wee sailboat smock.
And so it went. The final count was, well, unknown, as I don't prefer to quantify my excesses. I do know the new duds handily filled an old Samsonite overnight case. And that putting scraps to such small, delicious uses evokes a certain thrifty indulgence.
And that although no stuffing-headed little girl (or for that matter, red-haired real girl) actually needs a suitcase thick with doll clothes, it was great fun for me. And if we're honest, such projects are really more for the makers than those they're made for. And if I'm going to get on a roll, fast and furious, with no exits in sight, it had better be an innocent, upstanding roll. You know where I'm headed with this.
Salad. More salad. Every day a salad. We went through six bags of greens, last week, and had to buy more, to patch us through. Half of them went to this salad, here.
This here salad is a relatively new addiction for me, which is why I've only made ten (twelve?) times, over these past three weeks. It began when the library notified me that I could pick up Lucinda Scala Quinn's new book. When it will end is anyone's guess. Although, knowing my track record...
Enough about me. You. You'll want some fresh spunky greens on hand, something with crunch and character. Mizuna's been in regular rotation in our CSA, and I've loved its juicy crisp, here. Quinn suggests mostly escarole, with a half head of raddichio. Sounds good, too. To this, and to Quinn's original, you'll add slivered celery and smashed hazelnuts. (Yes, that's me, digging deeper, deeper, into the excellent crunchy groove.)
You'll also want some parmigiano reggiano, or pecorino romano, either/or. I've tried both. Declared both best. Then re-negged. You decide. Either way, get your hands on a wedge, because you'll want slivers, substantial, toothsome, salty alter-egos to those crisp leaves.
And, you'll want dates. Yes, dates. I know. I never wanted dates, either. In all my life, I've never understood the appeal of this sticky cloying gacky brown lump. I finally understand. (And by finally, let's be clear: we're talking forty-years of date confusion, people.) Dates exist for this salad.
Toss sliced dates with smart greens and toasty filberts and a serious hit of gritty-creamy parmesan schrapnel and oh. my. stars. They make sense. Against all these other tastes, bitter/salty/umami/sharp, they come to life with all kinds of complexity. Like bits of brown sugar, the dark stuff, muscovado, maybe, but also caramel's kissing cousin, and a mysterious swarthy something that try as I might, I can't put my finger on. I sliced some kumquats over this last go around, which added another, wonderful sweet-tart dimension. But don't let lack of kumquats stand in your way. This salad is stand-alone wonderful, as is. The dates make it so. Which is why I, lifelong loather of dates, recently bought a pound of Medjools at Costco. I'm down to eight ounces, maybe six. I'm on a roll. Best step aside.
An Anytime Salad of Greens, Dates, Pecorino + Hazelnuts
inspired by Lucinda Scala Quinn, Mad Hungry Cravings
Costco's Medjool dates are phenomenal, plump, rich, profoundly fresh (yes, there is fresh and stale dried fruit). Wherever you buy them, make sure they are rich shiny brown and soft, not white or wizened. Great dates are impossibly sticky to slice. Work with it. Their flavor overcomes all. On hazelnuts, I'm ever and always a Holmquist girl.
for the salad:
6 ounces (8 cups) mizuna, or one head of escarole + half a head of raddichio
2 ounces pecorino or parmigiana reggiano (from a wedge)
8-10 dried medjool dates, pitted and sliced
generous 1/3 cup toasted* hazelnuts, roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
15 kumquats (optional), sliced and seeded
for the dressing:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Prepare Salad: Roughly tear or slice greens into generous bite-sized pieces. Place in a large, shallow salad bowl. With a paring knife, shave cheese into thin tiles, slightly thicker than what a peeler would yield. You want toothsome bites of cheese, thick enough to have presence, thin enough to go around. An inch across, say, and thick as a dime. Add to greens, along with sliced dates, chopped hazelnuts, sliced celery, and kumquats, if using.
Make dressing: In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine lemon juice, syrup and salt. Swirl to dissolve salt. Add olive oil, attach lid, and shake vigorously to emulsify.
Drizzle 3-4 tablespoons dressing over salad, and toss gently and vigorously to combine. Munch a handful, and add more salt and/or dressing to taste. (You will have leftover dressing. You will be happy about this.) Try to share.
*To Toast Hazelnuts: Preheat oven to 350°. Lay hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheets, and toast 10-12 minutes, until the white nuts turn ivory, the skins begin to curl, and deeply fragrant. There's much fuss about peeling hazelnuts. Buy good ones (order from Holmquist; you'll never look back), and the skin is as sweet as the meat.