For some people, where we are is never quite where we'd like to be. Or rather, it's only one of many places we'd like to be. I live in Manhattan, and as much as I know that it's probably temporary (and I dread the day New York play time, as I like to call it, comes to an end), I regularly fantasize about all of those other places. Across oceans, on the one hand, and across a great mass of land on the other.
As a result of all of those places across the ocean, I do things like window shop in Alphabet City, an activity that too often turns into real shopping when I stumble on a little places, almost no more than literal holes carved into the sides of buildings. Like the Marrakech East on East 11th and one of those abecedarian cross-streets. Specializing in imports from Morocco, stacked and mismatched in the dimly lit room. Where the proprietor, with one working arm and one almost totally atrophied from disuse, directs you from his chair in the back of the shop to find the tissue paper, the wrinkled brown paper bags and the pen to sign your receipt, which might be under the two-ton cat with a human's name. It's the kind of place which claims not to accept credit cards, although the machine sits in plain sight, until you convincingly argue that you have only a twenty.
And as for that place across this great mass of land, I do things like recreate recipes from California kitchens. I fantasize about plucking my own apricots, one day, from a tree which would grow outside the bedroom window. Maybe I wouldn't even have to get out of bed, just reach out through fluttering curtains. I'd combine it with the mint and arugula sprouting from a tiny herb garden. Or I'd go straight to the source, Suzanne Goin's famed Lucques in Los Angeles, about which I have only read.
And on another tangent, I'm crazy lately about dressings thickened with fruit. I've shown you a curried date dressing already, and there's a fabulous watermelon salad that I made last summer, before the start of this blog, which definitely deserves a repeat performance. For this, just overripe apricots give body to the dressing and the same sliced fruit gives color to the salad. Marinating the shallot for 10 minutes in the acid helps to mellow its flavor, and although you'll have extra dressing, you can keep it for sprinkling on any stray bits of green throughout the week.
Arugula-Mint Salad with Apricots and Cumin
From Suzanne Goin of Lucques, via Melissa Clark's Chef Interrupted
For the dressing
6 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 large shallot, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 very ripe apricots, pitted
2 cups olive oil (use to your taste, I used substantially less I think)
Combine the vinegars, the salt, the cumin and the shallot and let the shallot marinate for 10 minutes while you prepare the salad. In the meantime, run a knife through the apricot until it starts to purée, then use a wooden spoon in a bowl to mash it thoroughly. Whisk the apricot into the sitting dressing mixture, then gradually whisk in the olive oil until it reaches your desired consistency.
For the Salad
2 bunches arugula, washed and dried (about 8 ounces)
1 bunch fresh mint, with the leaves torn off
8 small ripe but firm apricots, cut into wedges or sliced
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted (which you can do with a small un-greased skillet on the stovetop. But take care, slivered almonds go from raw to burned in no time)
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss all of the ingredients together with enough dressing to coat. Serve and enjoy.