Unexpected and Not Pretty

We’re off for a day trip to Maine and then we have lots of visitors this weekend, including the lovely Hungry Hippo.  We’re very excited and will likely not be cooking much (although, when the Hippo and I get together in the kitchen only good things ensue so who can tell?).  I did want to leave you with a quick not pretty but tasty recipe for those lazy summer days.  It comes from an unexpected place:  my mother.

You see, as I have explained, my mother was not one to cook.  In fact, perhaps my favorite non-cooking story is the following.  We had been living in my mother’s condo for about 7 years when I moved out to go to college.  I went far away, to Colorado and about two weeks into the semester, I got a phone call from my mother, reporting that the oven was broken.  I was highly suspicious- why was she using the oven?  Generally she used the oven for storage of sheet pans and/or dirty dishes when someone stopped by unexpectedly (we lived 5 flights up with no elevator so from the time she hit the buzzer to open the doors downstairs to the time the unexpected guest arrived at our front door was just enough to sweep any dirty dishes and other things out of sight.).  It seemed unlikely to me that she had used the oven so much in the last two weeks that it was worn out.  So I started to problem solve with her by asking what was broken about it.  “It won’t get hot,” she informed me.

“Well, did you turn it on?”  I asked, a little dismissively.

“YES,” she replied, “I’m not a total idiot.”

“Both knobs?”  I shot back.

“……………There are two knobs?”  She asked.

Right.  Seven years in this condo and she had no idea that you had to turn one knob for temperature and one knob for setting (bake, broil, etc).

I’m happy to report that 17 years later, my mother is actually a pretty accomplished cook. She can make a mean antipasto plate, several salads and even some main dishes.  She is far more willing to attempt new cooking adventures and is now famous for starting to make something and then calling me partway through to ask questions.  Funny, as that’s what I used to do with her mother when she was alive.  I’d call Grandma partway through many a recipe to clarify something.  It’s a nice little circle, I think.

Anyway, this salad which was not pretty the last time I made it, comes from my mother.  She read it in a magazine last summer and made it for me.  It’s an unexpected combination which works and from an unexpected source, her.

Peach, mozzarella and Basil Salad

Ingredients:

Fresh mozzarella  (either the small balls, sometimes called boconccini, or the bigger balls, cut into smaller pieces) Don’t use marinated.

Fresh Peaches (probably depends on how large a salad you want.  I’d start with 2-3 for a salad for two)

Fresh Basil  (how much is dependent on how much you like basil.  I’d start with 3-4 big leaves)

Olive oil (between 2-4 tablespoons, dependent on taste)

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Cut the mozzarella into bite sized pieces and place in a medium bowl.

Cut the peaches (no need to peel) by cutting them in half and then cutting wedges around the pit.  Alternately, cut them in half, wrestle out the pit and cut the pieces into bite-size.  Either way, the goal is to have mostly intact peach pieces and too much wrestling with the pit can quickly reduce your peaches to mush.  Add these to the bowl.

Stack your basil leaves on top of each other.  Roll them up, like a cigar and make small slices from one end to the other.  You’ll end up with small slivers of basil.  It’s a technique called Chiffonade and you can find photos and a how-to here.

Mix all of this together in the bowl and add some salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.   Serve at room temperature.

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