Friday, July 16, 2010

Blue Cheese and Summer's Tomatoes

This salad is so simple and so perfect. When I read it in the summer 2010, volume number 4, "Canal House" it seemed so obvious a combination I just couldn't believe I'd never had it. I read the recipe before our first local, giant, delicious, sun ripened tomatoes arrived. I held this recipe in my apron pocket, ready for the tomato, the irrefutable harbinger of summer. As I waited, I contemplated blue cheese.

Blue cheese has a wonderful association with friendship for me: standing in Meredith's Grandma's 1950's, canary yellow linoleum kitchen, staring at a hunk of blue cheese, each of us ready, with daring in our hearts, to cross from the cheddar of childhood to the blue cheese of adulthood. We were only eleven or twelve, but we knew that, for sure, imminently, our life was to be a whirl of glamour and cocktail parties, both of us glittering wits in swishing skirts and smart jackets. And for this, we had to prepare. First, by appreciating blue cheese.

We tasted it. We loved it, sincerely. The sharp creaminess, the crumbly texture, the demanding presence on the tongue. We sliced giant, freezing cold, green grapes into circles and stacked them on Wheat Thins, and topped it with a crumble of blue cheese. The flavor, the smells, the ingenuity of our chic, towering recipe, we knew life was only going to get better and better.

Awaiting the tomatoes, I found a blue cheese from Northland Dairy at the Farmers Market. I told Mary Rose the recipe it laid in wait to be used in and she exclaimed, "I don't have my summer Canal House yet!" And suddenly, we connected a little more, knowing our shared love for Canal House. I told her the issue was a dream, and as if saving the story line of a heavenly movie, restrained myself from telling her anymore.

Finally, tomatoes arrived at Brownie's fruit stand,and the next day at Ludgates. I made the salad. It was like falling in love: life felt more complete. As I ate, as slow as a turtle, savoring, savoring, I wondered if the Canal House Gals as we call them, knew Mary Rose and Northland Dairy. If they do not, I am sure it would be love. Their hearts are the same. The blue cheese is so, so good. The balance of salt, the texture, it is alive in your mouth. To quote the Avett Brothers "I hope I don't sound to insane when I say..." but, I feel like you can taste the reverence Northland Dairy has for its animals, for the process of its supremely hand crafted production. And that is how the Canal House Gals are, they care.

They care and they share their deep knowledge, the beautiful yields of their refined, elegant work. And, they are friends. Which inspired me to serve this salad to my friend, in honor of her thirtieth birthday. Across from a table set for lunch, with tall glasses of champagne beading up in the humidity, I could see her senses pause as she looked at the combination of tomato, anchovy and blue cheese. Then she took a bite and said, "I could eat this everyday." Everyday that the tomatoes are from plants nearby, raised in dirt, in the sun, we will. Eat well, savor the season, enjoy friendships.

Sliced Tomato Salad With Blue Cheese and Anchovies

Big, ripe tomatoes
Blue cheese
Anchovies, salt packed tastes best
the best olive oil you can find
red wine vinegar

Mince small garlic clove and combine with one tablespoon vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 3-4 tablespoons olive oil.
Arrange two or three fat tomato slices on plate, and spoon dressing over them. Lay blue cheese, then anchovies. Season with more salt or pepper.
Because this is not mixed or blended and the proportions are important, plate each individual serving.

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