The past few weeks have been a peculiar period, equal parts self-indulgent and diligent. Never have I spent so many hours on end inside my apartment, not even when I had the great gastro of 2009 and could only eat liquids for three weeks. My husband took over the cooking and grocery shopping — turns out he makes a pretty mean meatloaf. I stopped exercising, reading for pleasure, and seeing friends. I hoarded dirty dishes in the sink because it turns out that if my brain is stuck, washing a pile of them helps get the gears moving again.
And yesterday — yesterday — I turned in the manuscript for the book. After more than a year of research and writing, it is done! Finished! I can scarcely believe it. Also, I think I have empty nest syndrome. I’ve spent the past 24 hours wandering in a haze, picking up things and putting them back down. I keep feel like I’m missing something, and then I realize, Oh, it’s the book. And it’s done! Hurray! And… sob! I’m both relieved and sorrowful at the same time. And, yes, I recognize that’s probably a sign of bipolar disorder.
To distract myself, I’ve nosed back into the kitchen and composed a little spring salad of bright cherry tomatoes and strawberries, perfumed with basil leaves. Pairing fruit and tomatoes is not a new idea — in the summer, I make a similar salad with peaches or nectarines, tomatoes, slivered red onions, and a pinch of dried chili — but I like the basil-enhanced fragrance of these two together. Also, it’s a good way to use early, not-very-fragrant strawberries.
A couple of suggestions: to make up for young berries, I recommend using cherry tomatoes, the sweet, ripe kind that are sold attached to the vine. I also recommend serving the salad at room temperature — the refrigerator will only chill the flavor out of the fruit. It’s gorgeous paired with burrata as the cheese’s luscious interior combines with the fruit for a modern, decadent, salty-sweet interpretation of strawberries and cream. (And if you’ve ever wondered “what is burrata?” here is a beautiful explanation.) Just make sure your cheese is room temperature (and not chilled) when you serve it. The salad is also wonderful with macadamia-crusted chicken.
As for me, well, 24 hours later and I already have my fingers in about a dozen new pies. You know me, mes amis, I just can’t stop myself. I’ll be sending out another edition of my quarterly newsletter later this week — please sign up here! — and I’ve begun an author page on Facebook and I would be thrilled if you stopped by and liked me. I also have all sorts of plans for lunches, walks, exhibitions, flea-marketing, and just plain enjoying life in Paris again, one bite at at time. Because that, surely, is the true art of French eating, n’est-ce pas?
See you again, very soon. xoxo
Strawberries + tomatoes + basil
1/2 lb cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 lb strawberries
3-4 basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place them in a small bowl. Hull the strawberries, slice them into quarters, and add them to the tomatoes. Slice the basil leaves into thin strips, called a chiffonade, and add to the bowl. Stir in the vinegar, olive oil, and several grinds of fresh pepper. Taste adding more pepper if necessary. Serve immediately with burrata, fresh mozzarella, or plain.