Years ago, I lived in an old farmhouse with three other women. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen of that house, even once spent an afternoon scrubbing the floor that was layered with grime from previous inhabitants. When I wasn't in the kitchen or swimming in the lake or sitting on the porch where we often grilled on summer evenings, I worked in the market garden of the farm. Most mornings I would walk or ride my bike past the woods and fields and cows, enjoying the ever changing views of the mountains, far across the lake.
I lived a simple life there working hard all day, dreaming of which vegetables I would cook for dinner and spending a lot of my evenings and weekends making food. I baked bread and made baba ganoush from the excess eggplants in the garden. Living on this farm I became acutely aware and deeply appreciative of knowing where each ingredient in a meal came from. When my housemates were around we would all contribute to cooking our meals. We also worked together on more involved cooking projects like making ravioli and canning jam. I often remember that when something turned our really well or was especially beautiful Jessica would suggest taking a picture of it. I'm sure I took a few pictures of our food and I have lots of pictures of the garden, but this was before food blogs were abundant and before I had an inkling of the beauty and challenge that I could discover in trying to capture what was on my plate.
Since starting this blog I have often thought of Jessica's long ago suggestion to capture our edibles on film (I didn't have a digital camera at the time). Back then I brushed off the idea, but in the past few years I have taken many pictures in my kitchen. It has been a very slow process of learning little bits here and there but barely making a dent in my knowledge of photography. I often feel more rooted in the process than in being able to come up with a perfectly presented final product.
Like the disparate ingredients of a salad coming together in a transcendant bite, my past experiences marinate and mix to bring me to where I am today. Taking a moment to look back reminds me to I appreciate that where I have come from is just as important as where I will someday end up.
Raw Kale Salad with Parmesan Date Dressing
Adapted from Cook this Now by Melissa Clark
Citrus and dates transform the hearty kale into a lighter tasting winter salad. The orginal recipe uses anchovies but I used parmesan instead. The kale benefits from some marinating so you can make the salad a few hours ahead of eating. It keeps well for a few days. I used a mix of lacinato (also called tuscan or dinosaur) and red russian kale.
6 large medjool dates, pitted
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (or 6 anchovie fillets, finely chopped)
3 garlic cloves, minced
Zest of 2 oranges
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 bunches of lacinato kale, washed and dried
Sea salt, to taste
Chop the dates very fine and mash them into a paste. In a small bowl, mix the dates with the parmesan (or anchovies) garlic, orange and lemon zest. Stir in the olive oil and vinegar.
Remove the stems of the kale by ripping the leaf part off. Thinly slice the ripped leaves and place them in a salad bowl. Toss in the dressing and add salt to taste.