Danny’s at the kitchen counter, chopping and humming, the sunlight flooding in. Little Bean is standing at her wooden stove, just behind him in her room, banging out a rhythm with a wooden spoon. I’m bustling around them, rinsing the dishes or putting something on Twitter or opening the refrigerator to see what I can make for dessert. Our living room and kitchen are one big space, which flows into her room, so we are all together.
And then something shifts. Danny looks down at the food beneath his hands. He looks up at me, his eyes wide. He says, “This is going to be good.”
I look over to see a new salad he’s created, a melange of snap peas, English peas, green beans, corn kernels, and the fava beans he has blanched and skinned. The feathery pile of fresh dill on the cutting board has disappeared, chopped into fine pieces, mingling with the vegetables. I can smell the fresh lemon zest meandering through the room. And the jar of buttermilk ranch dressing we made a few days before is empty now.
Of course I move toward him, for a kiss, and then a bite of food. He has cut all the vegetables into the same size pieces. Even though I’m experiencing a new combination with each chew, it feels right. The salad tastes of early summer: long days, eating late, light lingering into the evening. The first real farmers’ market of the season, suddenly more choices than kale and radishes, again. The garden packed with full heads of lettuce, instead of stared-at dirt, willed to grow, dammit. Our skin warm from the sun, finally.
I had never eaten this salad before. After two bites, I thought, “Why haven’t I eaten this every summer of my life?”
That first bite happens as the golden light arrives.
“Will you read Bean that book she loves right now?“
He moves toward her, smiling.
I find the camera and race outside to grab the last scraps of sunlight.
When I return inside with a dozen photographs to choose from, I give the salad to Danny. It’s time for Bean’s bath, soon. But first, I turn to the computer and ask him to tell me exactly how he made it. Within a few moments, the recipe is saved, the photographs are downloaded, and the salad is growing cold and crisp in the refrigerator.
Someday, when she’s older, we’ll explain to Little Bean that not every family photographs its meals and writes down the steps before they eat.
Early Summer Vegetable Salad
This salad only appeared on our plates because we were trying to use up all the vegetables we had bought at the farmers’ market a few days before. This time of year, we go a little crazy at the market: beans! peas! arugula! spinach! And then the crisper drawer in the refrigerator bulges with too much green.
The lovely Kim O’Donnel, who writes A Mighty Appetite for the Washington Post, has been hosting the Eat Down the Fridge challenge again this week. It’s such a great idea. We’re often too tempted by the allure of a new recipe, an idea for dinner that requires another trip to the store. It’s a slippery slope around here — food is what we do. And then we are shocked, again, by how much we spend on groceries every month.
We’re trying to save, just a bit, and appreciate what we have, instead of always yearning for a new ingredient. And what we have discovered lately shouldn’t come as a surprise, since this happened when I had to cut out gluten. A little deprivation breeds creativity. Without the determination to use what we had, this salad would not have been born.
1 cup fava beans
1 cup English peas
1 cup green beans, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup snap peas, topped and tailed, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 ears corn, roasted and kernels cut off
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh dill
zest 1 lemon
Blanching the beans. Set a pot of water, with a pinch of salt, to boil. Put a bowl of ice water in the sink. As the water is coming to a boil, shuck the fava beans. Snap the shell and extract the 3 or 4 beans per pod. Shell the English peas as well.
When the water has come to a boil, plop all the shucked fava beans and English peas into the pan and let them bob in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Immediately drain the pot of water and plunge the beans in the ice water. After a moment, take them out and let them chill in the refrigerator for a few moments.
Composing the salad. Combine the fava beans, English peas, green beans, snap peas, and corn. Season with the salt and pepper. Toss in the fresh dill. Stir. Zest the lemon over the salad. Stir.
Toss the salad with the dressing of your choice. We enjoyed this with the buttermilk ranch dressing we have been eating all spring. I think it might also be delightful with this creamy lemon chive dressing. A simple vinaigrette might do the trick, as long as you don’t use a big-tasting vinegar like balsamic.