"You jaywalked your way out of the womb.
I would recognize you anywhere
by the hiccup in your swagger. Tell me,
where in the world did you find all that thunder?"
I crawl into bed, pull over the covers, and break the spine. Nothing about this is ceremonious—but some days, when the strife of Sunday bleeds, when Tuesday feels like an entire week in a single day, I require resetting. You sense this. I am grateful.
I found a new moodiness this weekend. Perhaps it is all the preparations of family visiting, an intense nesting I have never before experienced first-hand, or maybe it is simply the endless summer sun, setting my roots ablaze. Regardless, AM gave me Sarah Kay’s debut book of poetry for my birthday in the hopes that I will pick it up whenever my stride needs reprogramming. I sat in bed all Sunday evening reading poems aloud.
It all started to turn around with dinner. On Saturday night, lying once again in bed, we discussed making an intensive meal filled with vegetables. I often like to unwind on Sundays with a dish that takes a few hours to pull together. Upon the arrival of Sunday morning, our ambition waned. We struggled for ideas. And then I stumbled on a recipe for fattoush, a Middle Eastern salad very akin to a traditional Italian pazanella. I didn’t think about it at the time, but in retrospect, it is a beautiful amalgamation of our tastes—AM, rooted in Eastern and Asian traditions, and me, wholly European in my preferred flavors at home.
The concept is simple: toast flat bread until it reaches a crispy, golden brown and break apart into bite size pieces. Toss with cherry tomatoes just waiting to fall apart, English cucumber, scallions, and a vision-inducing combination of cilantro and mint. Drizzle with a mixture of lemon juice, minced garlic and olive oil. Maybe toss in some grilled chicken breast if you’re feeling vivacious. There is something about the cilantro and mint that becomes infinitely savory, playing so lightly with the lemon across your tongue. We were hooked.
Then when Tuesday seemed to take far more of my life than it had any right to, I used the same salad base, but added another one of our favorites: tamarind pork. It found new life, sliced thin and tossed with a quick marinade of fish sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, onion, and tamarind paste, and then seared in a smoking skillet. I didn’t have any more naan around to toast, so I just omitted it—not a fattoush any longer, but I didn’t mind. Packed in jars, it did wonders for lunch the next day and honestly, I am always looking for more excuses to use pork tenderloin.
So maybe it wasn’t the most feel good weekend ever—but sometimes that’s when the real work happens; when we remind ourselves to turn back to the basics, to uncover the bits of ourselves that somehow go forgotten, but never actually leave.
Fattoush with Grilled Chicken
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: chicken breast are way too large to be cooked well anymore. You need to butterfly them or they will be dry every time—I have some instructions in this old recipe. I don’t have a formal recipe for the tamarind pork version, but I wanted to showcase the versatility of an herb heavy salad. Sear a steak, fry a pork chop, and throw it on top. It’s all good. Promise.
2 rounds of garlic naan or other flatbread, like pita (I unapologetically buy the naan at my grocery store)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, butterflied
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
16 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
1 English cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
1 cup arugula, chopped
1/2 c. mint, chopped
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
4 scallions, sliced thinly
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush your flat bread with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a wire rack inside a rimmed sheet tray. Bake 18-22 minutes, flipping and rotating half way through, until both sides are golden brown and crisp. Set aside.
Generously salt and pepper both sides of your butterflied chicken breast. Over medium-high heat, preheat an oiled grill pan until it starts to smoke. Add the chicken to the pan and grill four minutes on the first side, flip, and leave for an additional three minutes on the second side. When cooked through, removed to a covered plate and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, garlic clove, 2 T. olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, cucumber, arugula, mint, cilantro, and scallions.
Break apart the cooled flat bread into bite-sized pieces and add to the tomato mixture. Cut chicken into strips and add to tomato mixture. Toss all ingredients with the lemon juice mixture and serve immediately.