Loyal readers of kitchenplay know I dislike Mark Bittman. It’s less about his recipes, and more about his attitude, specifically the attitude displayed towards me and my question during a book talk at the Philly Free Library a few months ago. I won’t go into details, but you can read about my unpleasant encounter at Bite Me Bittman. My friends now get a kick out of secretly cooking with Bittman recipes, waiting till I pronounce my fondness for the dish and then revealing the “man behind the curtain.” I can like the man’s food; I just don’t like him.
That said, his latest feature in the Times caught my eye: 101 Simple Salads for the Season. I cook very little over the summer, disliking the heat my kitchen produces and the lack of central air to combat it. I often get stuck in a rut of Lean Cuisines, peanut butter off a spoon or ice cream for dinner. So his collection of innovative salad recipes has inspired me. Starting today, for the following week, Thursday to Wednesday, I am going to make a Bittman-approved salad each day.
I hit up Reading Terminal for some of the ingredients that ran through many of the recipes I'm interested in: tomatoes, peaches, cilantro, red onion, mint, arugula, celery, carrots, corn, lemons and limes. I'll likely need to make an Italian Market run over the weekend to supplement.
First up? Number 2: "Mix wedges of tomatoes and peaches, add slivers of red onion, a few red-pepper flakes and cilantro. Dress with olive oil and lime or lemon juice. Astonishing."*
This salad was, in the words of my brother, "bangin'." Peaches and herbs (no, I'm really not trying to be funny, I swear.), are my new favorite duo. I recently made a basil peach jam and the cilantro peach combination in the salad tickled my tongue. In fact, I think the same salad could be really good with basil in place of the cilantro, but try it with the cilantro first. I went for a healthy dose of lime juice which also went nicely with the cilantro (unsurprisingly) and peaches (more surprising).
And the kitchenplayer in me does appreciate how Bittman doesn't specify quantities; it's all about proportions that you think will work, that you'll enjoy.
Ok Bittman, in this imaginary little fight of ours, you're starting to redeem yourself. Let's see what else you got.
*Salt is meant to be included in all the recipes though it isn't specified. I used a nice sea salt.