The inspiration for this slaw is a mango salad I order way too often from a local Thai place in hopes to offset the inevitable damage from the pad Thai I order with it. It has strips of mango, slivers of red pepper, red onion and mint, large toasted cashews and a spicy dressing with a lot of lime in it. It’s always a surprise; sometimes the mango is underripe and sour (which I understand to be more traditional) and sometimes it’s sweet and almost overripe. The best part is that the salad tastes good no matter how the mango arrived that day.
So, I told you about the brisket. Or, the way we talk about it, thhhuuuuh brisssssket, it’s deliciousness making our syllables stretch out melodramatically. We pulled it into tacos with slaw and pickled onions and it was a great end to a great year. But I bet I know what you’ve been wondering since then, “But no appetizer?” Well, let thie question vex your brain no longer: we had soup. (Jacob, however, got into the margaritas. Again.)
I wore heels to the hospital when I showed up for my induction four weeks ago. Heels. And a sundress. Oh, and my mother and I decided to walk there from the doctor’s office, since it was such a nice day (we only made it ten blocks, but still). Heels. Sundress. A stroll on a lovely September day. I say this not to point out how ridiculous I can be — because really, I believe it points itself out — but to outline this thing I do where I get an absurdly ambitious ideal in my head and spend the rest of my time trying to close the gap between the dream and my reality.
I’ve spent way too much time this summer trying to dream up a pasta salad that wasn’t boring, or predictable, or well, you know, the kind of familiar pasta salad territory you don’t need me to go over for you. Because I love a good pasta salad, I just don’t find them often. Usually, they’re missing the freshness you’d expect from something you eat in the summer, when the markets are bursting at the seams with peak-season produce. Often the dressing is a throw-away, either a too-plain vinaigrette or heaps of mayonnaise, lending itself to more of a mass than a salad. So I knew what I didn’t want, I just hadn’t figured out what I did.
I have to own up to something: I’ve lost interest in leafy salads. There was a time when we filled out every dinner meal with mixed greens with a light vinaigrette and any plate without them looked sparse. But somewhere along the line, the world of lettuce has been so co-opted by bagged and pre-washed, chlorine-tinged flavorless green leaf-looking structures (what, do I sound like I have a bone to pick with them or something?) that not even fancy restaurants are a reliable source of good leafy salads anymore, and so, for the most part, I’ve bowed out, making only occasional exceptions made for nice greens mix or crunchy, velvety Bibb lettuce at a farmers market.
In the last few days, New York City has gotten the most delicious nip to its breezes; drier air and clear skies have set in and despite that fact that I maintain that I don’t wish summer to end, it’s not holding up when I hit the Greenmarket and go a little berserk over apples and squash and things that have nothing to do with stone fruit. I’m a sucker for New York in the fall. It always wins.