I clean spinach and lettuce. I am in the kitchen, it is early morning.
The sky, already slightly cloudy, promises a hot day. One of those humid and hot days typical of the Po Valley where Emilia becomes Romagna.
And in the meantime, I hum an old Italian song.
“Maramao because you are dead, bread and wine you did not lack, the salad was in the garden and you had a house”.
It is a popular song against the violence of war. For me, it was just a little song.
And since I was accompanying my grandmother to the garden, I thought that Maramao had died of hunger because he had left home where, as I could see, the salad was in the backyard.
And so I sang, thinking that I would never have done that to leave home.
Which, of course, is what happened. Not to go hungry.
Simply, to grow up and fly away.
The lettuce was in the garden.
When I used to go with my grandmother to harvest the salad for the meal, it never took a few minutes.
There was always a tomato to arrange, a courgette flower to add to the basket, basil to water. For me, that time was always good.
I walked between rows of tomatoes taller than me, surrounded by the intense smell of sun-ripened vegetables. I would peel off a tomato, wipe it on my shirt to remove the verdigris, and eat it.
I watched the insects, the color of the earth, the smaller fruits. And I hummed to myself.
Always suspended between reality and my fantasy world.
But despite the amount of life cooked, tasted, devoured, there is always that thing about salad. Which for me grew up in the garden, and buying it has never been the same, not even today.
As beautiful and crispy as it may be, I still think of the distinct smell and taste of that salad.
Depending on the variety, it was sweeter or earthier, fleshier or crunchier. It was always worth tasting to discover its flavor.
A seasonal salad is not simply fast food.
It was not just a dish ready in 5 minutes. I talk about salads as recipes in the post about the lentil, rocket, and blueberry salad.
The salad was a poem to declaim the raw beauties of the season.
In summer, it was the food of the hottest days. When the azdora (housewife in dialect) abandoned the oven and heats and let the garden cook for her. It was the way of the garden to say thank for her thousand attentions. The caresses lovingly distributed to delicate leaves, the smiles bestowed on overdue aubergines, the patient search for courgettes hidden in the tangle of the plant.
Fresh spinach and cherry salad.
Between the lettuce and the spinach, I chose seconds. I take a handful of cherry tomatoes and some wild fennel, a handful of pitted cherries.
As a dressing, I chose just olive oil, traditional balsamic vinegar, and toasted flax seeds I use instead of salt.
The Tuscan olive oil comes from my friend Vittoria, who owns a farm close to the sea in the Maremma region of Livorno.
The vinegar is a precious gift I received during my visit to the Antica Acetaia Villa Bianca in Modena. A wonderful place. Here silence and vibrations, ancient and mysterious scents watch over the transformation of vinegar into balsamic. If you come to Italy you can also visit this company: follow the link in the post for information.
If you cook in season, life will taste better,
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Use your favorite kind of lettuce.
Fresh spinach and cherry salad recipe
fresh spinach, 140 g
1 handful of cherries
a few sprigs of wild fennel
cherry tomatoes, about 20
linseed, 10 g
traditional balsamic vinegar PDO, olive oil to taste
Wash and dry lettuce, fennel, cherries, and tomatoes, then cut the latter in half.
Remove the stones from the cherries (you can also leave them whole if you prefer).
In a small frying pan, toast the linseed for a minute (be careful, linseed pops like popcorn!).
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, including the flax seeds.
Bring to the table and dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.