In the time since we last spoke, I did not make black bean soup; Tim and I took a look at our remaining refrigerator loot on Friday and, supplemented by his work lunch and a homemade weekend dinner from friends, spent the next three days eating sumptuously from its contents instead. Sunday, we did not go grocery shopping with the masses; we decided we hate grocery shopping with the masses (so instead we went to Indian food and took advantage of a free museum deal and pushed our weekly shopping routine to Monday afternoons).
But here’s something we did do: Sunday night, lazy and happy and on a mission to clean out our refrigerator shelves before the next day’s shop, we made this large, filling, easy, simple salad—we’re calling it a Sunday salad, because it’s the kind of salad you make at the end of a long week of good eating, merging together all the remnants of the seven days past.
I saw a quote from Alice Waters last week—Alice Waters being, by the way, that remarkable chef and restauranteur famous for Chez Panisse in California and author beloved for, among other works, the legendary The Art of Simple Food, which I am up next for at the library (!)—and I’ve thought about it many times since:
“When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is.”
What Waters is saying isn’t hard to understand: Food tastes like what it’s made of (or, at least, it should). Start with good ingredients, and you’re on your way to good food. It reminds me of Julia Child’s famous line about how chicken ought to taste “chickeny.”
It also reminds me of this salad, cobbled together in the dimming Sunday daylight, when our little Nashville street of 1940s houses was quiet and still.
I’m always hesitant to post recipes like this one, because, between us, they’re not much in the way of recipes at all. While I tracked the amounts and progression of ingredients I was adding and while I’ve recorded that for you here below, the honest truth is that I could just as well have said: Pull firm salad greens, the kind that still have a crunch when you bend them, together with other odds and ends of vegetables in your fridge (in this case, pea shoots, basil, carrots) and maybe an avocado, maybe some seeds, and make a little bit of a sweet dressing to pour on top.
This is how we always make our salads, and so I tend to think little of them—the way I imagine a farmer’s daughter might, when she’s eating fresh-picked carrots for dinner many nights a week.
But the thing is, Tim and I were saying Sunday night, there’s nothing quite like a humble salad to satisfy you, to leave you feeling so good when you’re finished, so invigorated and alive. And when you’re sharing that simple salad with your spouse or with your roommates or with some friends—because, for the record, I truly wish more people would have dinner parties composed of simple giant salads, bread and wine; I mean, why not? Why do we think a dinner party has to be multi-courses and all fancified?—you look down at your plate, covered with the earth’s riches, a feast of nutrients and textures and tastes, and have to fight to feel anything less than thankful. Or at least, I did, Sunday night, eating this salad that seemed as good as any restaurant’s, a testament to the good gifts we’ve been given and are being given, each day.
A Sunday Salad
Serves 2-3 as dinner; 4-6 as a side
You’ll see in the ingredients below that we ribboned the carrots, which essentially means I peeled the carrots of their outer skin (which we discarded) and then kept going at them with the peeler, letting the strips fall into the salad. The inner nubbins, I chopped into little matchsticks.
1/2 cup einkorn berries
A bowlful of red leaf lettuce (about 6 ounces), chopped roughly
Leaves from a couple sprigs of fresh basil, chopped
Handful of pea shoots (or sprouts would work), chopped
3 carrots, ribboned
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
+ 3 tablespoons olive oil
+ 2 tablespoons honey
+ The juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Begin by cooking the einkorn berries (two-to-one ratio of water-to-berries, brought to a boil and simmered for about 30 minutes)—this may be done ahead of time to speed salad assembly for dinner While they cook, begin assembling salad:
Combine lettuce, basil, pea shoots, carrots, sunflower seeds and avocado in a large bowl; toss well.
In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, honey and lemon juice to make a dressing.
When einkorn berries are cooked, add to salad bowl and add dressing on top of that. Toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste.