August 24, 2009

Fresh Radish & Cucumber Ensalada or A Note about Onions

A's friend and co-worker S was taking a little trip to the land of cheese and she was gracious enough to unload some of her CSA veggies to us before she left as she wouldn't be able to use them. She was describing what she had to give us before and I already started envisioning a radish and cucumber salad dressed with lime and vinegar. Of course, jalapeño and cilantro would want to be friends as well. And so, we joined all in a lovely embrace of tart salad goodness. You will need to have all of the ingredients above and any other fresh veggies you might have on hand that you might need to get rid of. I used half of the cucumber because I didn't have very many radishes to balance it out. I also love a pretty cucumber, so I peeled some stripes into it. Also, I was making it a little more palatable for my lovely partner, she's usually adverse to cucumbers (unless they're pickled) so this falls into the general category of feed it to her even if she acts like she doesn't like it. I thought (rationally of course) that peeling off the peel might make her mistake them for something else.

You should slice it as thin as possible. Lucky for me I have a nice sharp knife exactly for these purposes. However, one of those slice-your-finger off julianne thingies would have done a really good job with this. I think the thin slices really made the salad.

Give a little piece to your kitchen assistant. She's so patient in her favorite spot in the kitchen. She also wants to tell you that one time A accidentally dyed her favorite rug robin egg blue. Lucky for her she bleached it and it came back to it's original color. Otherwise someone might be mad... me or Sandie, you can guess.

Give your radishes the same treatment - minus the pretty stripe peel (unless you want peppermint candy-inspired radishes).

Add into a bowl and keeping going down your list of ingredients, slicing and dicing. Next up, purple onion.

I'm trying to like onions more. They are such an important ingredient in Mexican and Mexican American cooking. But here's the deal, my mama does not (and I don't believe ever has) love onions. So this means I have to try extra hard to begin to like them. I like them cooked and in most foods, I think they smell lovely sauteing, especially like when I make them in my spinach quiche (which is what I paired this wonderful salad with tonight). But what onions really remind me of is my mama - as her extreme hatred of them is pretty much scarred as a notch in my brain. This distaste for onions was so bad that she singlehandedly changed her own mother's cooking to sin cebollas, siempre. She also somehow convinced my white grandma to make her little small portions of onion free dishes (of which I can't seem to remember currently) but this was no small feat, dare I say this means white grandma actually might love my brown mama. On top of this, I was forced to eat the small non-onion dishes then because when you're little and your mama doesn't like something, you don't like it either, it's a standard practice, just ask anybody.

Anyways, back to onions. Onions always make me cry. Paradoxically, this makes me kind of happy. Not because the release of endorphins associated with crying feels good, but because of the wonderful book Buried Onions by Gary Soto. The main character, Eddie, is constantly talking about how he smells onions buried under Fresno and that the oppressive smells of the onion actually make the inhabitants of the city cry (whether they know it or not). Not to give away the whole point of the book, but buried onions become a metaphor for so many things in the lives of these residents' and the only one who can really see it is Eddie.

Because of this book and because onions always make me cry, the onions also make me contemplative as I'm crying over them in my small kitchen. I am reminded of millions of families who have and continue to toil in the fields to pull up onions. I've never pulled an onion out of the ground but I can imagine, in the heat of dark soil, they probably do stink, and perhaps being in a field full of lots of burning onions in the brown dirt might inspire some tears. I don't mean to paint a picture of farmworkers as pitifully crying in fields as they pull up whatever-season-produce, because farmworkers are full of dignity in the fields in which they work, and this is noble work that not many think about. As far as I know none of my familia have worked in the produce fields. However, my great-grandfather on my mother's dad side laid down the railroad from Missouri to Colorado via Kansas and Nebraska. My mother's mother picked cotton in the South with her familia when she was young on many of her trips across the US/Mexico border. So I know the ways that hard labor shapes a person, I know the pain because it lives through me in my historical memory. In this vein, and in thinking about Soto's book I often remember these memories and feel them vividly when I am cutting an onion and crying, thinking about the ways that my own relationship to the onion that has landed on my cutting board, knowing it was touched by a farmworker's hand, before it came into my own. The onion to me holds a lot of power, it can make you cry and then you have to examine why you're crying - because while it does hurt a bit to have onion fumes enter into your nasal canal and water your eyes, it also becomes the avenue for you to explore some deep, repressed feelings if you let it. What I can assure you is that the next time you peel or cut an onion you're not going to forget to ask yourself why you're crying.

After you've finished crying because of your onion, or for whatever reasons you might be crying as long as you've contemplated why it might be that you did, de-stem some cilantro for the rest of your salad.

Next if you're feeling like some spice in your life, grab a jalapeño - I'm often amazed at how many of these I manage to have in my house at any given time. See this little piece of the end, that's how much I put in my salad, it added a bit of a kick, but it wasn't making my eyes water like that sliver of onion did. I love jalapeños but they just don't make me cry like my onions do.

I had a chance to use my jalapeño corer again today! I just scooped out was was in the middle of that little piece I chopped off and then finely, finely diced my pepper. Since I was just throwing it in with the other ingredients and I didn't want A or myself to choke on a chunk of jalapeño I decided finely dicing was the way to go.

Doesn't it look pretty and yummy? I totally snuck a taste (can't trust kitchen assistant with that job) to see how hot my pepper was. I wasn't disappointed. Lastly it's time to dress your salad. My abuela makes this delicious cabbage and carrot salad that is literally dressed with vinegar, salt and pepper and it is almost my favorite salad of all time. It might also be because she painstakingly shreds every inch of that salad out by hand and that gives it some extra love that cannot be replicated by shredding that takes place in the Cuisinart 5000 power food processor and definitely not with the pre-shredded cabbage and carrots you can get in the "I'm too lazy but bourge enough to buy pre-cut vegetables" area of the produce fridge at the grocery store. Anyways, the point of this rant is that I was saying, a) you always have to make it with love or else why bother and b) my abuela makes this delicious salad with vinegar as the dressing and I thought, what better way to bring my salad up to a delicious state but to dress them with some aged, white wine vinegar. I would've used just some plain vinegar but I didn't have any in my cabinets! The horror! Oh, and don't forget to squeeze half a lime in there (or to taste), my lime was small, I would actually say probably one tablespoon would do.

The white wine vinegar gave it the tart and sweet finish I was looking for. There were a lot of delicious tastes all mingling into one tasty accompaniment to my quiche (see who says I can't cook French food) that was serving as our main course. A even ate all of her salad! Including all of her cucumbers. What a nice little hot summer meal. It was light and refreshing all around. Fresh vegetables, check. Vinegar, check. A little creativity, check. You can do it too! I just know you can!

Sorry again for the bad pictures, my kitchen does not have very good lighting and I'm usually like an ogre in there trying to take pretty photos - as in my hunking shadow tends to block out what little light I do actually have in there. You can't tell here but I cracked some freshly ground pepper over mine and it was very tasty. I do like how I have the close up view of the salad here, but again, everything looks so dark and sad - which is unfortunate since it was quite a cheery dinner minus the tears I had to shed when slicing that onion, but one might say, I'm learning to love those tears.

PS: Has anyone seen Princess Protection Program starring the adorable Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez? I'm watching it now with A and having conflicted thoughts on it... more on this later I suppose.

1 comment:

  1. I think Sandie needs to learn some new poses. Tyra would have totally cut her at this point. ANTM starts in a few weeks; we need to force Sands to pay closer attention. Maybe we can give her props next time?