11 May 2009


I mowed what passes for a lawn, and spent the rest of the weekend in pottering about the garden, which is an excellent occupation on warm days. The azaleas are putting on their first really good show ever. The irises are starting. I spent a good 15 minutes contemplating the large yellow irises which I found crammed into an entirely unsuitable location in the front and are now flourishing in the backyard. Yellow is not my favourite colour but these are so accomodating -- blooming enthusiastically on 40" branching stems like great golden candelabra -- that I love them anyway. I am still not sure what they are, but I suspect they may be 'Alta California.'

Digging back into the old, old archives on diaryland, I find I blogged about the yellow irises blooming for the first time in 2004. I didn't like them so much then. I'm glad I've gotten to be better friends with them.

The tomatoes and zucchini have grown visibly. The gooseberry I thought had died has tiny green buds on it. Why it is so far behind the other gooseberry, which is now almost fully leafed out, I do not know but at least it is not dead.

Some other things have been very slow to leaf out, as well, like my oakleaf hydrangea. It too now has some tiny buds on it but for a long time I was very worried. I've scaled that back to 'moderately worried' but the green growth is a consolation.

Sunday, I made chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, and a citified version of an old Applachian spring salad for dinner. The salad is so simple I'm almost embarrassed to write it down and call it a recipe. On the other hand, it's really good.

2 tbs bacon fat
2 green onions, white and light green parts, sliced
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
4 cups shredded lettuce or other spring greens

Wash the lettuce thoroughly and spin or pat it dry. Tear it into smaller pieces or cut into a chiffonade, and put in a bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, warm the bacon fat over low heat. Add the the onions with the sugar and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and start to become translucent. Add the vinegar, stir well, and pour over the lettuce. Toss well so that the vinaigrette thoroughly coats all the lettuce. Serve at once.


I save bacon grease in a jar for just this sort of recipe. If your cultural heritage does not admit of keeping jars of grease in the kitchen you can fry a few strips of bacon, use the fat from those, and add the crumbled bacon to the salad if you like. You will not need to add extra salt.

Done this way, with the vinaigrette warm but not really hot, the lettuce is not squishy-slimy wilted (my complaint with a lot of 'wilted greens' dishes) but maintains some texture.

As for lettuce choices: Bibb is good. Homegrown black-seeded Simpson is better. Spinach, dandelion greens, and similar, are also good and preferred by some. Really crunchy lettuces, like Iceberg or Romaine, are not good choices.

The curious reader is directed to Mark Sohn's Appalachian Home Cooking: History, Culture, and Recipes for more in-depth discussion of the 'killed salad.'

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