"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Farmer in the Queen City (recipe)

Babcie's Summer Salad
(scroll down for recipe)

Manchester, NH had a population of about 90,000 when I was growing up there. It's not a huge city, but I'm sure it was a bit of a culture shock for my grandfather who moved there from a farm in Poland shortly after the end of World War II.

If I were to walk onto my grandfather's property now, dressed the way I remember it from my youth, I'm sure I'd be the one in shock. You see, I currently live in a suburb of Boston, MA whose metropolitan area has a population about three times that of the entire state of New Hampshire and I'm horrified that my neighbors have a pair of chickens in their yard. When I was a kid however, Dziadzio's (pronounced Juh-joo, Polish for Grandpa) mini farm in the city didn't even phase me. It was a great place to visit and I was there almost every day. At one time or another, Dziadzio had three chickens, two ducks, a dog, countless rabbits (they really do multiply quickly), and a flock of pigeons.

But his menagerie was not my grandfather's claim to fame; THAT was his garden. My grandparents' home sat on a double lot which afforded the space for the animals and a huge vegetable garden along with (concord) grape vines, and fruit trees that bore peaches, plums, pears and crab apples. Needless to say, with all those pigeons, Dziadzio never needed to buy fertilizer. Our family was eating organic WAY before it was cool. I know this had at least some influence on his son-in-law (my dad) whose own yard boasted a good sized garden and a peach tree. I was raised to love raw vegetables and taught to use them in ways that emphasized, rather than masked, their natural flavors.

Babcie (Polish for Grandma and pronounced Bahb-chee) was an amazing cook and she had the best resources at her fingertips. Most plentiful were the tomatoes and cucumbers used in the recipe I share with you today. This is one of those family recipes that never really had a name. It's been handed down, one generation at a time, with instructions like, "Throw in a dollop of sour cream. I don't know how much; until it looks good." That's how my family cooks. I assume that's how most families cook. My Aunt always called it "Polish Salad" or "Babcie's Salad." Call it whatever you want, but try it. I love this stuff.

Babcie's Summer Salad

1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
two good sized cucumbers or one English cucumber, sliced a little thinner than 1/4"
two medium tomatoes, sliced in chunks or one pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
one half of a medium onion, sliced paper thin (optional)

In a non-metal bowl combine vegetables.
Add sour cream and toss to coat veggies.
Add vinegar and stir lightly. (Do not give into temptation to add more vinegar.)
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, but 4 hours or more is ideal.
Stir again and serve cold.

(Quite) A Few Notes about Ingredients:
I rarely peel an English cuke, but I always peel the traditional cucumbers (if they're from the grocery store) as they are usually heavily waxed to keep them fresh in transit.
Yes, you must halve your cherry or grape tomatoes. The juice of the tomato is necessary for the dressing.
I leave out the onions when I make this for the kids, but it's so much better with them in it.
Keep it simple. You may assume cider or champagne vinegar would improve this dish, but the whole point is to use simple, easy to find ingredients that really play up the natural flavors of the vegetables. The vinegar draws some of the moisture out of the veggies and makes a simple dressing that's wonderful.
Yes, you may use reduced fat or fat free sour cream and it will taste exactly the same.

And Here's Another Use:
After your veggies have set in the fridge for a few hours, toss them with about 8 oz. (dry weight) cooked, chilled pasta. (Yes, I love pasta salad.)

Or you could do what I did last week and drop a scoop on a bed of lettuce and have a terrific salad for lunch.

Kocham cie Babcie i Dziadzio.