The first ever edible creation that I made were sugar cookies when I was in the 6th grade. Mind you, I had helped Helen bake before, but this was my very first, my very own lone endeavor in the kitchen. I can't quite remember how they tasted but I do remember the care that I took measuring out the ingredients. Flour was carefully scooped in to cups and then leveled off with a butter knife and vanilla was carefully poured into a teaspoon. There was almost something calming to the whole process of measuring and stirring and scooping. Ever since then, I have been an absolute stickler for following recipes to a T. Needless to say, I tend to panic when something goes wrong.
Helen on the other hand, is the exact opposite. If there's one thing that she hates the most, it's measuring. And if there's one thing that's most essential to baking - it's measuring. Which is why generally, she tends to be the savory cook and I the sweets baker. It's a system that's worked pretty well. After all, she could care less for actually using a measuring cup and I'm afraid of the stove top and popping oil.
During a trip over to DC during my Spring Break however, she threw me for a loop. She offered to make a pasta dish and told me to put together a salad with just her pantry ingredients. Pantry ingredients? No recipe? I can do it. Right?
Something went wrong. I panicked. Helen calmed me. I took a deep breath. And then I whisked and I chopped. Everything slowly came together. I breathed.
By the time we sat down to eat and I took a bite of my salad, I think that I started to learn a bit more towards Helen's approach to cooking. Recipes and measuring spoons may not be all that they're cracked up to be - not when you can have crunchy nectarine slices marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing over a bed of crisp butter lettuce.
Who knows, maybe next time Helen will actually break out the measuring cups when she's baking. For now however, we can continue to eat impromptu salads.
Crunchy Peach Salad
This recipe is essentially the result to under ripe nectarines and panic in the kitchen. Therefore, while it is extremely simple, we may not have discovered it had I not panicked. Make sure that when you are buying nectarines/peaches (because either will work here) they are still firm to the touch. The best part about this salad is the peaches that have been marinated in balsamic vinegar, we found ourselves snacking on the peaches even before they had been placed into the salad... While Helen's kitchen was lacking in parmesan, we both agreed as we were eating that a couple grates of it would have been a perfect complement. Also, while we used butter lettuce, we think that you could definitely substitue it with other leafy greens that are similar in texture.
1/2 head of boston lettuce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1-2 firm nectarines or peaches
salt and pepper to taste
Wash your lettuce thoroughly and then spin dry, place into a large bowl
Slice your nectarine as thinly as possible
To make the dressing, combine the balsamic vinegar and olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste
Put nectarine slices into dressing, make sure that all of the slices are submerged, marinate for at least half an hour to an hour - this is the key step so make sure to do this!!!
Toss the salad with dressing and nectarines when ready to serve