-Jeffrey Eugenides (The Marriage Plot)
I've been falling more and more deeply into this novel all week long. To those of you who know me well, the reason should be obvious: it's about a girl who loves books and eats large amounts of peanut butter directly from the jar. But it's also about a narrative trajectory that has fascinated me since my last year of college--the role that marriage plays in the novel and what happens when transgressions occur, not to mention the problems that arise when a life is based on literature. Amazingly, thanks to a timely concurrent reading of this novel and a story by Zinaida Gippius, "No Return," I'm again on good terms with my dissertation. The ideas are flowing and I think I can combine everything I found in Finland with questions and themes that have long stood on the periphery of my research. Thanks to this, my committee and I are also enjoying a peaceful spell in which ideas are exciting again and we're all on the same page, seeming pleased with ourselves and each other after our meetings. Yes, it's been a momentous week. Year Six of graduate school officially ended today after I took my last (and only) final! Obama (finally) stopped evolving! All in all, you might say that things started to take a positive turn last Friday evening when the Greek and I were walking home from campus and I stopped to grab us dinner at the lovely Summer Kitchen Bake Shop.
So that's exactly what we did. Despite the presence of a lingering cough, I biked 4 miles there and 4 miles back. Getting there, despite a little tire-deflating incident that called for an emergency bike shop run, was easy enough : the weather was beautiful, the ride was downhill and there was such promise to the day. Biking back, however, was another story; it was all uphill and, even as I kind of sensed it at the time, I still hadn't realized quite how much we had managed to buy: two bunches of asparagus, fava greens, several avocado, a giant beet and, best of all, a heavy, thick-skinned pomelo (Chinese grapefruit)! Even at the sweaty end, it was well worth it.
The plan for dinner was fairly simple, at least on my end: While the Greek was making Julia Child's Coq au Vin (a photo of his masterpiece is below), I would be attempting to recreate the asparagus salad, but with a few substitutions. Putting it all together in my mind, I knew I wanted to keep the feta cheese (but of course!) and asparagus combination, but I wasn't going to be adding any candied pumpkin seeds or arugula. Instead, I was going to toast some walnuts and use the fava greens, which, to me, were a novelty. The leaves were thick and dark and the taste a little nutty; really, it's not unlike spinach--it's just more subtle, more mild. These things seemed almost inconsequential since, as we all know, the hardest thing about recreating any salad is making the right dressing; I knew I could taste something tangy in the balsamic-based dressing that Summer Kitchen had provided, so I finally settled on adding a tablespoon of Greek yogurt (and, in fact, I think my recovering taste buds were spot on). My one major innovation was to add a minced chunk of green garlic (what would be about the equivalent of 1 large clove of garlic) because how do you resist its smell?
Yields a large salad for two
Recipe notes: I liked a thicker dressing with this salad, but dressing is a personal thing. Some people prefer more oil, some more vinegar. Just don't cut out the Greek yogurt or green garlic (or good old regular garlic if that's all you have); they're essential!
Fava greens are one of those rare farmers' market finds and if it comes your way, I suggest you grab it immediately and try it. It's delicious and a nice change from the usual greens. But if you can't find it, any kind of spinach will do.
One other important thing is the asparagus; I decided, for the sake of time, only to chop off the ends and to use raw asparagus in the salad. Because of both the bright green color and the brief shelf life of fresh asparagus, I think Summer Kitchen had probably blanched theirs. If you go the raw route like I did, I suggest you use only the top third of the asparagus stalk and save the tougher bottoms for a brunch frittata like I did. Asparagus, spring onion and mushroom make for a lovely one, especially when topped with chives, parsley and sour cream; there's a photo below of both it and the fruit salad, which starred the pomelo. There's something immensely satisfying about a meal that keeps on giving.
For the dressing:
1 Tbsp. Greek yogurt (I use 2%)
1 Tbsp. of minced green green garlic
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3-3 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Spoon the Greek yogurt into a small bowl and add the green garlic, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk well and again before serving; the yogurt may start to separate.
For the salad:
1/2 lb. fava greens (3 loosely packed cups)
10 Stalks asparagus, ends removed, the top 1/3 cut off and the bottoms saved for breakfast or for roasting
3 oz. feta, roughly crumbled
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
Assemble ingredients in a large bowl. Spoon as much dressing as you like onto the salad and mix well. Enjoy the taste of spring!