Monday, December 24, 2007

aruba + a blue cheese iceberg wedge


If there is one thing that Alex has shown me the light of over the course of our relationship–but fortunately, there are many, including ribs, pickles, bourbon and skiing–it’s the consummate beauty of a vacation that entails absolutely nothing. No water skiing, no scuba diving, no afternoon of shopping, no conga lines: just hours upon hours on the beach, tearing through one book at a time. Can you imagine how awful this must be after months of doing things and being ‘on’ and producing things of value for other people in exchange for earning a living? I’ll tell you, it’s a big adjustment.


Day one is always a little bewildering; we find ourselves saying “Wow, a whole week?” “Seven DAYS of this?” and “What will we do with ourselves?” a lot. Day two we start settling into the beach life–barefoot, sunscreened, our winter coats looking ridiculous hanging in the room’s closet–and make some dents in our books. By day three, however, we’re pretty used to it all: the bluest–aqua, really–ocean we have ever seen, silky white sand, absurd 3 p.m. cocktails called the Tropicolada and the uncanny ability to take a long post-cocktail nap despite having slept 10 hours the night before, and this is where everything descents into a haze. Without a singular event or laughable attempt at productivity that will serve as a demarcation between the days, we tend to blink twice and its day seven. We wonder how our families are doing. We ponder what plans we have made for the weekend we return.

day foursunset dining arubaaruba

That is, under the best of circumstances. However, this vacation, this last step–the one when we begin to miss little parts of our regular lives–went terribly awry, and I blame a lot of this on those evil Heavenly Beds they have branded at Westin Hotels. It’s just not fair. I used to love our pillow-top bed, our thick feather duvets and our down pillows but since I’ve been home, they’ve been a constant source of disappointment: my sleep experience has been ruined. But that’s not all; this weather has been unseemly and in the greatest of indignities I have had to suffer through, its noon now and not a single waiter has offered to deliver a Tropicolada to my part of the sofa. I cannot believe I am expected to subsist under these conditions.

aruba sunsetaruba sunsetday eightcoming home

Alas, this is the part where I am supposed to tell you about the Aruban cookbook I dutifully picked up at a gift store with mouth-watering recipes for fried plantains, coconut cake and pigeon pea stew and alarming ones for iguana soup, or at the very least, provide you with an approximation of a recipe for that tropical cocktail, but I’ve got none of that for you today because when I came home from vacation, all I craved was a classic iceberg wedge salad. Yes, like the steakhouse kind–by land and not sea. What can I say? My cravings defy logic. Bring me a Heavenly Bed and a coconut rum cocktail and I might be willing to discuss my inconsistencies.

bacon sizzlingroquefort

Until then, this recipe is flawless in its own right. With or without crumbled crispy bacon, I have always had a soft spot for these types of salad, likely harkening back to the days when they, along with a side order of broiled mushrooms and steamed asparagus, were all I consumed at steakhouses. I know iceberg is the lowliest member of the lettuce family and that blue cheese dressing was supposed to have gone out of style with flannels but I think we all know how well that’s going, so I say dig in. Nothing screams Seven Days Until Salad Season like a bacon salad!

iceberg wedges with blue cheese dressingiceberg wedges with blue cheese dressing

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it!

Muchos gracias: To my sister for keeping an eye on the smittenkitchen while we were away, so we could rest assured that it neither blew up nor left you all hanging while we hit the beach.

Blue Cheese Dressing
Adapted from several sources

Use this dressing on wedges of iceberg or another crisp lettuce or omit the buttermilk and serve it as a dip with crudites.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups of dressing

1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 ounces crumbled firm blue cheese (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Blend buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor until smooth. Add blue cheese and pulse until cheese is incorporated but dressing is still slightly chunky. Transfer to a bowl and stir in chives.

Do ahead: Keeps, covered and chilled, for one week, though we’ve yet to test that theory.


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