Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lovage, parsely and basil salad

I’m a firm believer in hard work. If there’s something I’ve learned from my mother, it’s that everything is better when you know you’ve earned it. I don’t rest on my achievements, as I know that for every goal accomplished there is another goal to be conquered. Also, in my case every success is accompanied by tons of previous failures and possibly messes to be fixed and clean up, so there’s no resting whatsoever. So I’ve been working on my thesis, I’ve been editing a manuscript, keeping up with the blog, running, biking, lifting, keeping up with yard work and trying to stay up-to date with the endless chores that a house demands. Work, work, work.

Relationships are work too, and as such they deserve time and respect. Yeah, investing time and energy in romantic relationships may be a no-brainer for most of us, but friendships and family ties are sometimes easy to overlook. Since I was finally able to break loose this weekend from my long, long to-do list, I did my best to keep up with my often-neglected friends and family, and I spent some quality time with them. I started by saying farewell to a friend during his last day at work on Friday, and I ended it on a positive note on Sunday, when I got to spend time with a good friend who moved away and was back in town for the weekend. And then Saturday was all about family: lunch with the family and drinks and snacks with the BFF. Eat, eat, eat.

Speaking of friends, some of our closest friends have been raving for a while now about this great tasting “herb” that’s supposed to change my life (in a culinary sense). It’s apparently common in their native Romania, but it can be found in our local farmer’s market too. Its name is lovage and it’s actually quite lov-ely. Turns out my partner’s parents, also Romanian, have their own lovage bush and offered us some branches to take home. I immediately tore a leaf and ate it to know if I wanted it; I did. The aroma reminded me of the Puerto Rican quintessential herb recao/culantro. It did not taste like it at all; recao tastes like a much more powerful cilantro, but the lovage leaves tasted much more like celery.  And call me crazy, but the texture and refreshing aftertaste reminded me of parsley. So there you go; there’s my crazy description. It smells like recao or cilantro, but it tastes like celery and it feels like parsley. Crazy or not, I knew exactly what to make with it. Chop, chop.

I made a salad that featured lovage and herbs. I’m not a big lettuce eater, and if I make a salad just for myself, half my salad is made from herbs. Parsley, cilantro and basil are my go-to “salad herbs” but I dropped the cilantro for this one. I added some strawberries and red peppers for the sweet notes and texture, I used some cheddar cheese, and I dressed it with olive oil and lemon juice. That was all. Heavy dressing is not necessary; in fact, I would strongly discourage it. Unlike lettuce, the herbs bring beautiful aroma and taste, and you don’t want to mask it with your dressing. No, no, no.

I’ve normally kept my “herb salads” to myself because I’ve felt like a weirdo. Who does that? Then I found out that the world-famous chef Yotam Ottolenghi loves to make these kinds of salads, and he has even served them in his restaurant. I felt validated. As a funny note, the same friends who introduced me to lovage introduced me to Yotam’s food, and they even gifted me one of his cookbooks for my birthday. We are going full circle here. My salad recipe is not based on Yotam’s recipes, but a little shout out here and there doesn’t hurt anyone (although he is super famous and I’m not, so I don’t think it will accomplish much). Well, here’s my salad. I hope you like it.

On the road shortcut

Nutritional info per serving (4 servings):
193 calories, 10 g carbs, 16 g fat, 6 g protein

For the salad
½ head lettuce, torn or chopped
½ cup lovage, chiffonade
½ cup parsley, chopped
¼ cup basil, chiffonade
1 large red pepper, chopped
½ pint (8 oz.) strawberries, sliced
2 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

For the dressing
3 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
A pinch of salt

Mix all the salad ingredients in a salad bowl. In a different container, add all the dressing ingredients and mix well. Dress the salad with the dressing just before serving.

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