I make a lot of salads. They feel simple, particularly those I throw together to fill me up at mid-day or to accompany a weeknight dinner. I’ve not shared any of them here; I’d always thought them too humble. But after Kimberley and I determined that a kitchen-sink-sort-of-salad we’d made for lunch was more than fitting for a post on her blog, The Year in Food, I realized the error of my thinking. And her post yesterday proves how worthy of sharing such things can be. I can attest that the salad is scrumptious, and I’m touched by her words about our work together. Assisting this fantastically talented lady with her cookbook has been such a rewarding experience for me, and I’m humbled to know she feels the same.
This, however, isn’t the day for an original salad on Delightful Crumb. The recipe I’m sharing is of someone else’s invention, but its time—for me—is precisely now, and so those other salads will have to wait.
One morning a few years back, when I was living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and rocking my single lady life, I arrived at the Saturday farmers market alone and around midmorning, as was my way. I ran into my friend Kelley as she made her way out of the market. She had arrived very early to snatch up cherries and arugula, she told me, which were destined for a salad she’d found in Molly Wizenberg‘s A Homemade Life. It was the end of cherry season, and so the little ruby beauties were in high demand. Early was necessary.
She listed the other components of the salad: soft goat cheese, crusty bread, balsamic vinegar. It is fantastic, she told me. I was utterly convinced. I trust her taste, I love that book and the salad sounded incredible in its simplicity.
But I never made it.
Perhaps this is the moment at which I am expected to say that I’m sorry I missed out for so long, that I wish I’d woken early the next week and gathered what I needed to make it myself. But those things aren’t true. I’m not sorry.
It is not easy to let things rest where they do, to take in the seasons we’ve got, to acknowledge that this moment is meant for one thing and not the other. But I really believe it’s true: for everything there is a season. That was a tired, confused, busy time, not one for leaping out of bed to chase end-of-season produce. It was a season for sleeping late on Saturday mornings to make up for exhausting weeks at the office, for long morning runs, for going to the market whenever I chose, for finding my way around the kitchen by making meals with whatever pretty produce ended up in my crisper drawers.
But this? This is the season for that salad. According to my research, cherry season is equally as fleeting in California as it was in Michigan, but it seemed more so there—or rather, then. This year, I’ve had no trouble finding time to eat plenty of cherries out of hand while also making this salad two-times-and-counting. Perhaps it wasn’t the length of the season but the state of my mind. Everything seemed fast and unclear in those days, and though life isn’t necessarily calmer at present, I feel freer and a little more settled in both the kitchen and my heart. Baby steps, I guess.
And so, I won’t insist that you make this salad. I think you’d like it—Kelley was more than right about how truly fantastic it is. But maybe it’s a season for other things in your life: for eating cherries straight from the bowl rather than saving them for other ends, for throwing everything on the grill because you’re just so glad it’s finally summer, for takeout in the interest of coping with hard times. All of these are fine—embrace the season you’re in!
But if by chance the allure of a salad bursting with jammy cherries and soft goat cheese and toasty bread and spicy arugula is enough to make you rise early and hurry to the market this weekend, I hope you will. And if not, tuck this away. Its time might come a few years down the road, and I’d hate for you to miss it then.
Bread Salad with Cherries, Arugula & Goat Cheese
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life
As the lovely author of this recipe instructs us, this is more a formula than a recipe. Feel free to adjust quantities to your preferences and what you have on hand. Feta cheese, for example, is an excellent substitute for the goat cheese.
Serves: 2 as a light meal; 4 as a first course or side
4 to 6 ounces rustic bread
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional
1/2 pound cherries, pitted and halved (don’t have a cherry pitter? try this!)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus additional if needed
Several handfuls arugula
2 to 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Tear the bread into rough, bite-sized pieces. (I like to cut it into slices and then tear them into small pieces—simple and still plenty rustic!) You should have about 4 loosely packed cups of bread. Dump it onto a rimmed baking sheet or cast-iron pan and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat. Bake until crispy and golden in spots, shaking the pan once, 8 to 10 minutes.
While the bread toasts, put one-third of the cherries in a small bowl, and crush them lightly with a fork so they release their juices.
When the bread is nicely toasted, turn it out into a large serving bowl. While it is still hot, add the garlic. Toss well. Set aside to cool for a minute or two. Then add the cherries—those you smashed as well as the remaining halves. Add 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar and toss again. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch or two of salt; toss again. Taste, and adjust the vinegar, oil and salt as needed. When you’re satisfied with the flavor, add several handfuls of arugula and toss one last time.
Finish with a generous amount of crumbled goat cheese and a few grinds of the pepper mill, and serve.