Monday, August 15, 2011

A Sweet Disorder

"A sweet disorder in the dress/ Kindles in clothes a wantonness" were lines that came to mind as I put together this not very composed salade composée.  It's more of a strewn salad, I suppose, though one deliberately strewn.  An artful disorder was what I was after, an arrangement of disparate bits in atypical combination, but expressing a sense of the season, what we see around us now in the meadows at Bide-A-Wee, at the market.

The poem, by the way, is by Robert Herrick, full text click here. At first I wrote "pome," an appropriate typo as there's a pome on the plate, slices of our first ripe-ish apples (whether they are crabapples or merely stunted, we can't be sure). Also blackberries, challenging to harvest, so redolent of August meadows. The taste of blackberries brings along with it the smell of crushed monarda, the hum of bumblebees.

Some meat is nice in a composed salad, and here it's smoked duck left over from that magret I smoked last weekend, sliced as thin as I could. Then beautiful little haricots verts (blanched about three minutes) from the Dallas, Wisconsin farmers market. We visited two Wisconsin countryside farmers markets last week, the Dallas market, and one in Boyceville. One had two vendors, the other just one. Dallas was the big one. And yet we came away with those beautiful beans, a bucket of tiny cucumbers that I'm turning into cornichons and sweet gherkins, ground cherries, lovely tomatoes, corn, a red cabbage, sweet onions.

We made a mellow vinaigrette for the salad, olive oil, just a splash of cider vinegar, pinch of salt, dash of honey, and I muddled a few berries into the dressing. While I'm not a fan of seeds in blackberry or raspberry jam, I actually enjoyed the crunch of the seeds in the whole berries on the salad. The apples were still quite tart but aromatic and flavorful, and combined with a bite of the smoky duck, perfect.

It's a salad that invites you to visit different parts of the plate, try different combinations--there's no prescribed way to eat it. A messy composed salad is art imitating life which imitates art, a studied disarray which "Do more bewitch me, than when art/ Is too precise in every part."

Text (except the Herrick) and photos copyright 2011 by Brett Laidlaw

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