The busier things have gotten around here lately, the more I find myself creating new, necessary rhythms to see us through our days. It helps to set some things on auto-pilot so that there are fewer tasks to remember, and less details to tend to. Less things to forget. Less items to cause stress.
~~ Groceries are picked up on the way home from meetings with clients on Thursdays.
~~ Laundry is done on specific days. Showers on alternate days.
~~ The coffee maker is reloaded every evening when the dinner dishes are washed.
~~ The bread machine is set up every Friday afternoon to make pizza dough for dinner.
~~ Lessons are planned a week in advance, with worksheets copied and books obtained (ahead of time) from the library.
~~ Soup, salad, and baguette are the standard for Saturday night dinners.
~~ Extra dark chocolate is purchased and hidden in the cabinet for emergencies.
Oh, the humdrum of the routine can be thrown out at a moment's notice to take advantage of a friend's perfect idea to combine families for an evening of chaos and stove-sharing and laughter, and nothing ever has to be set in stone, but knowing that there is grace in this weekly rhythm is comforting, grounding even, when schedules start spinning out of control.
Grace is good.
I have already prattled on enough about my love for the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special, but it has been such an ideal winter cookbook these past weeks, keeping our Saturday evenings warm with nourishing soups, and providing a welcome rhythm in knowing I will naturally reach there for my inspiration for new soup & salad recipes and pairings.
There have been hits and misses, of course. Tonight's soup was perfectly dull and disappointing. Last Saturday's salad was head-scratchingly odd. But the winners have been divine, and tonight's salad of arugula, pears, blue cheese, and a bracingly acidic vinaigrette was downright stunning. Gorgeous to look at, and worth fighting each other for the last few bites.
It was so simple to make, and the lack of extra ingredients in the recipe allowed each individual flavor to shine brilliantly. The arugula was sharp and bitter, the pear slices were firm and sweet, the blue cheese was meltingly rich and savory, all of it drizzled over with a bright, tart vinaigrette. I have known good salads, but this was one of the very best. No extraneous textures, no flavors thrown in for complexity's sake. Just four perfect notes.
As suited as it was for a first course followed by soup and bread (the bread all the better for mopping up the leftover bits of blue cheese swimming in vinaigrette), it would be extra winsome served alongside a good, fatty fish like salmon, or with a rich omelette topped with sauteed mushrooms, really anything full-bodied or creamy enough to act as a foil to the bright, clean flavors and crisp textures of the salad.
I live for salads like this. And given the squabbling at the table over the last few bites, so do The Carnivore and The Boy Wonder.
FRESH PEAR AND BLUE CHEESE SALAD, serves 4 as a side dish
(adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special)
- 4 cups arugula (or other salad greens if you are averse to the assertive flavors of arugula)
- 1 large firm Bosc, Bartlett, or red D'Anjou pear
- 3 Tbs fresh orange juice
- 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup (or more, to taste) crumbled blue cheese
- On a large platter, arrange the greens.
- Core the pear, slice it thinly, and lay the slices atop the greens.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt.
- Immediately before serving, drizzle the dressing over the platter of greens & pear slices.
- Sprinkle the crumbled blue cheese on top.