An Herbaceous Salad Amongst Friends: In the Kitchen With… | Varyer

An Herbaceous Salad Amongst Friends

A Hand Habits recipe

One of my favorite rituals and arguably the most important while making music is eating. Whether it’s sharing a meal with the people who came together to create a recording or prepare for a performance, communal style, or a solo day at home working on a song or demo- the whole day seems to revolve around what’s for lunch, what’s for dinner. The times I’ve been spoiled and lucky enough to have someone handling cooking on a session are the times the sessions went the smoothest. Most of the time, I’ve elected myself to handle feeding everyone. I love to ground myself while cook, keep my hands busy and direct my focus onto something that is not music for a while. To feel the coolness of a leafy green as it rinses clean in water, to smell the shallot, feel it burning my eyes as I dice, to dip my pinky into the mixture of vinegar and oil and lemon juice as I test it’s ratios. There’s not much space to think of arrangements or harmony actively while I’m using a sharp knife, and this is integral to the process. I’ve learned over the years that it’s best to start preparing lunch before I get too hungry-while things are still sounding and feeling good.

My easy, go to, crowd pleasing nourishment staple is an herbaceous salad. It’s important to have as many herbs as you can- I like dill, basil, mint, parsley the best but sometimes will sprinkle marjoram over the top or add some edible flowers. Color says a lot about flavor to me. I like there to be some kind of balance between the hues in any meal. For lettuces I’ll mix wild arugula and little gems and if I’m feeding a lot I’ll cut that with some romaine hearts. I chop the lettuces up harshly- a rough lazy broad chop. I don’t like when the bites are hard to get your mouth around, so let’s say mouth sized bites. The herbs I’ll finely chop, almost mince? I don’t know the technical term-just smaller than the lettuces. Once they’re all chopped up I mix them all together so you get an overall herb taste. It shouldn’t be identifiable upon first bite, they should all act as one ambiguous herb. And make sure to use a lot of herbs- these are not garnishes. They are not overdubs, not background vocals. This is a duet between herbs and lettuces, and the herbs have the highest range.

In the kitchen with Hand Habits

Equally as important is the dressing. A simple shallot mustard vinaigrette. Mince one shallot (two if you’re feeding a bunch of people and need a lot of dressing), let it soak in some vinegar of your choice. Red wine works, but there are so many funky and fun vinegars out there. Once I had a redwood vinegar. It was really smoky. Let the shallot soak in the vinegar while you mix up the salad with your bare hands. I also like to top the salad with a nut or seed- sunflower is yummy, pine nuts are lavish. Since the seeds and nuts are heavier than everything else, topping works best so they don’t float to the bottom and get missed out on. Once your salad is mixed up and plates are ready to be served, mix in a good olive oil (I prefer Sabria’s aka Sherwood farms olive oil from the Hollywood Farmers Market). Use your best tasting judgment here. Depending on the vinegar and potency of the shallot, add in more oil to soothe and less to make it kick. Squeeze up to half a lemon in as well. One squirt of mustard- I like a dijon or brown. A dash of salt, to taste, and a few cranks of pepper. If you’re feeling sweet- some maple syrup or honey can be really yummy. Or even a splash of orange juice.

Make sure to use a lot of herbs- these are not garnishes. They are not overdubs, not background vocals. This is a duet between herbs and lettuces, and the herbs have the highest range.

Get creative! This is the final touch of the salad. It brings all the herby flavors together nicely. Need that acid, need that salt. Mix it all up good- or shake it in a container with a lid.

Personally, I prefer to let everyone dress their own salad. This is a point of contention at the table, but I care about everyone's individual salad to dressing ratio. Some like a drenched leaf, some like a mere sprinkling, some prefer to dress mid way. I like to make space for preference!

Serve while fresh!