Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Summery Musings, a Mildred Story and Provencal Chicken Salad Recipe
Summer, summer! Please slow down! Here we are in the middle of August already, I can hardly believe it. But, what a lovely, mild August it has been. Every night our meals are full of fresh produce from our gardens. Blue eyes keeps asking me when I am going to open a restaurant because everything has been tasting so good! Often, it's actually just our normal recipes reawakened with handfuls of fresh, snipped herbs, soups laden with sauteed zucchini, onions, green beans and tiny red potatoes. Salads bursting with flavor and homemade dressings.
Herbs are the most wonderful of edibles, I must say! They make everything taste amazing! We've been flavoring iced water and teas with lemon balm and mint. The lemon balm smells just exactly like the lemon drop candies my dad would sometimes give me when I was a little girl. Sometimes, when I'm wandering about outside, I crush some in my fingers and inhale a memory. My parents old kitchen, the medicine cupboard where the lemon drops and Fisherman's Friends would be, my dad's work worn hands, tickling my sisters and my feet with "this little piggy went to market."
When I was back home in New Hampshire this summer, Blue eyes and I went for a walk down to the woods and river that I grew up playing in. It was so beautiful that I almost cried. All the wooded hills and blue water, wild flowers and my little nephews and sons serenely reeling in brook trout. My siblings and I would play for hours in those woods, swimming and fishing, playing Indians and dollies among the ferns and pine needles. Such a carefree and beautiful place to grow!
I remembered my great aunt Mildred, who every once in a while, would come over on a summer day loaded with Cheetos, orange soda and circus peanut candies, she would tell us that she was ready for a picnic, anywhere we wanted to go. One time we wanted to go to a cool place but we had to climb under a chain link fence to get there. (I think we were trespassing. Oops! But to us a fence did not mean "Keep Out", it meant "Find a Clever Way to Get Over or Under"!) The way it was done was to find the spot where the ground dips, have someone hold up the fence, and crawl under on your belly.
My great aunt Mildred was short and stout, she wore polyester pants and grandma blouses. She had a lovely round face with crinkly eyes because she laughed a lot. I think maybe I was about six at the time, and if my memory serves me right, and I think it does, she was game for crawling army style under the fence. I remember she asked my brother if he could hold up the fence any higher, and laughing she wormed her way under the fence. We had a lovely picnic. She was really good at whistling and telling stories, and mixing wisdom with silliness. I sure loved my great aunt Mildred. The funny thing is, is that at the time, we didn't think there was anything remarkable about Mildred climbing under the fence! It was just a matter of course.
As I was showing Blue eyes all the places that I loved when I was a little girl, I felt so blessed. My childhood was not perfect. No one that I know of has had a perfect life. But what a blessing to be able to realistically look at what was wrong and accept it for what it is and still rejoice in all the things that were good. I went back to my parents house from that walk with a heart full of grace and love towards my family.
It's funny, how when I was a new mom I thought I had it all figured out, I'm pretty sure I thought I would be a better mom and my kids would be better kids than just about any others. After a while I realized it's not about "being better" or even "as good as" but just about trying to do the best you can with what you have at any given time. It's about "walking humbly with God" and carrying others with grace, remembering that you've never walked in their shoes.
I guess when I was younger I thought I had it all figured out because I hadn't lived long enough to know that Solomon was right in Ecclesiastes when he said " to everything there is a season". Life is always changing. Just when you think you've got it figured out, it all changes on you. I am so glad we serve a God that never changes, who is faithful, and the same yesterday, today and forever.
Earlier tonight, my eight year old son, Moses, asked me, "Mom, besides guns and dogs and stuff, if you could have anything in the world what would it be?" Oh, Moses, Moses, besides guns and dogs and stuff, I think I would chose today, just the way it is. This day, in this place, Blue eyes and little sons to make me laugh, fresh herbs, and a country parsonage, daughters, big and little, neighbor kids riding over on fixed up bikes to fish in the culvert, flooded with rain. Yup, besides guns and stuff, I think I'll just be content with today.
This salad is simply wonderful! Every time I serve it, someone asks for the recipe, apparently my family is not the only ones who think so! The original recipe came from a cookbook called Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers. My neighbor in Kalama gave me the book and salads and dressings have not been the same around here ever since! All of my kids love salad, and this one, especially!
PROVENCAL CHICKEN SALAD WITH ROASTED PEPPERS AND ARTICHOKES
"With bits of sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, artichokes and olives, this chicken salad makes a great presentation and tastes fantastic. Serve with some crusty or peasant style bread."
1/2 c sun dried tomatoes, ( I only use these in winter when fresh are not available, in the summer, use either cherry tomatoes or beefsteaks from your garden or the local farmer's market. If you use the sun dried, place in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let rest 10-15 min. drain well and mince.)
1 14 oz. jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
4 chicken breasts, pan fried with seasoning salt and cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 roasted bell pepper cut into strips. ( To roast the pepper, halve, remove seeds and place skin side up on a pan. Roast in 450 degree oven until skin begins to blister, about ten minutes. When cool enough peel off the skin.)
1/2 c sliced black or French green olives
1/2 c fresh, snipped herbs, such as dill, parsley, basil, oregano, and chives
4 c greens
Mix all together, besides the greens.
2 T red wine vinegar
2 t Dijon mustard, or course ground mustard
1/2 t minced garlic
6 T olive oil
1 t dried or fresh oregano
1/2 t Kosher salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
Put all dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake well.
Just before serving toss together greens, chicken mixture and vinaigrette.