Tuesday, August 25, 2015
I have been grasped by an overwhelming sense of nostalgia the past few weeks. Admittedly this happens every August as fall creeps closer but in this case the loss of an old friend last week has me feeling particularly gripped with a want to slow time down/ move it backward. As I sifted through milk crates of old photos and reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in years I couldn’t help but be seized by how fast it all goes by and how precious life is. This particular friend and I had not seen each other in years, or even been close in over a decade but the suddenness of his passing, the fact that he left a beautiful family behind and the fact that we were so close at such a formative time in our lives had me really steeped in the grief of it. We were all just babies, really, riding around with newly minted drivers licenses, truly questionable fashion choices (so much hemp, so many cargo shorts), and good, good company. We laughed constantly and life felt like an adventure, even though it was some pretty basic suburban teenage mischief. Everything was new then.
I am also struck by the speedy passage of this year and the deep-feeling-potency of motherhood. I don’t know how to put it any other way. I thought I was a sensitive soul before becoming a mom but having a child, like falling in love, getting married, or any other activity that is both worthwhile and terrifying at the same time truly does bring out All the Feels. Russel is now six months old. How on earth this happened so quickly I don’t know. I often times am still struck by the thought “holy shit I have a baby!” when I peek at him in the rearview mirror or tiptoe into his room to watch him sleep. You can call it cliché all you want but the parenting adage that the “days are long but the years are short” is the TRUTH. He has been alive for half a year and it feels like ten seconds. My boy has round thighs reminiscent of legs of prosciutto, three (three!) tiny white teeth and what the pediatrician calls a “zest for life.” I think we will keep him, long days and all.
And while the days are long for just a few weeks more I’d like to hang onto this summer for a while more. Food is an easy way to do that. Fresh, bright and super simple: this chicken “salad” for lack of a better term has without a doubt been the signature food of the Benson Family Summer of 2015. My friend Tim made something similar a month or so back and told me about it. I went home and made it the very next day, tweaking it just slightly and adding corn (because it’s August, der). I then went on to make it four times over the next three weeks. It’s addicting, healthy and delicious. I have bulked it up with crunchy romaine and baby spinach leaves to be a proper salad, spooned it into warm pita pockets and shoveled it into my mouth with the serving spoon straight out of the bowl. It’s that kind of good.
TOMATO, CORN and HERB SUMMER CHICKEN SALAD
Marinated grilled chicken breasts (see recipe below)
1 ear corn, charred over a grill or open flame
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes (I used red and yellow)
3 scallions, chopped
2-3 tbsp. fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
2-3 tbsp. fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
¾ cup cashews, toasted and coarsely chopped
3-4 tbsp. olive oil
Juice from one lime
2-3 tsp. rice vinegar
1-2 tbsp. whole grain mustard
Char corn over an open flame or grill until slightly blackened in spots. Let cool and chop kernels from the cob. Halve or quarter cherry tomatoes and combine with corn in a large bowl. Add cubed grilled chicken scallions, parsley, cilantro and cashews. Drizzle in oil, lime juice, rice vinegar, honey and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Toss together and taste, adjusting seasonings if necessary. Serve with lettuce cups, over chopped romaine with an extra drizzle of oil for a complete salad; or shovel into your mouth straight out of the serving bowl (my preferred method).
SIMPLE MARINATED GRILLED CHICKEN
3-4 chicken breasts
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. whole grain mustard
Liberally salt and pepper chicken breasts and combine with remaining ingredients in a Ziploc bag. Let marinate in the fridge for at least 20 minutes or up to 4 hours. Grill until cooked through or a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. You could also use boneless, skinless thighs, although if I were doing that I would halve the amount of olive oil, they have much more fat.