Somehow, today marks two years that I’ve been blogging here with all of you (!!), and I’m feeling rather romantic about a number of things. About the blog, yes. And also: every stitch of clothing in the latest Anthro catalogue. This sofa.
Chef Sean Brock.
Be still my beating heart, this is a crush I won’t be shaking any time soon.
I had the chance to dine at the original Husk restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina when my mom and I embarked on our unforgettable Southern Eats birthday road trip this time last year. We arrived for lunch just as the restaurant opened, my pulse as tickled with anticipation as my skin was tacky with the coastal Carolina humidity. The burger lived up the hype. The impossibly creamy grits a whimsical celebration of a cuisine that, as Sean insists in his season of The Mind of a Chef, really is rooted to the soil of the South and the fruits, veggies and heirloom grains it pushes forth. Of course there’s pig, and fried chicken, white gravies — all of which is slap yo’ momma good (I refrained, as she was to be my travel companion for a good week or more). But it’s so much more seasonal in story than my Calicentric self allowed me to imagine. And Sean talks about it with an infectious joy that my Samsung flatscreen is powerless to contain. That has found me stupidly grinning to the point of cheek strain, fists curled into balls, on the literal edge of my seat, on more than one occasion over the past couple of weeks.
Netflix, you matchmaker.
With Chef Sean Brock, I maintain, I am irrevocably smitten.
Or rather the wannabe chef within me is smitten, I suppose. The green-thumbed heroine of farm-to-fork persuasion that wields a paring knife as one might wield poetry, skillfully exposing one sun-ripened verse at a time.
She and Sean are a match made in heaven.
I can only try my best.
This salad, I feel confident saying, is the best I’ve got this season. Not perfection, by any means, but as close an approximation as I dare declare — inspired solely by the who’s who of my CSA’s late summer bounty, bound together with a bit of salty, cured pork and silky mozzarella.
While not absurdly mindblowing — nor a far stretch from my usual cooking style — it’s a simple homage to eating what we’re meant to eat when we’re meant to eat it and appreciating the soil from whence it came. (Did I till said soil? Hell no I did not — though the basil is from a wee pot out back I’ve managed to keep alive for nearly three weeks now. Progress.)
It’s even a pretty enough salad to be fittingly celebratory, I think, for a blog that came to life a whole 24 months ago and has maintained its existence not because I’m a sucker for food, silly pop references and a fictional language that would leave Snoop shaking his head — but because you’re a bunch of suckers, too! And as adoring as I am of Sean Brock at the moment, my adoration would fall on deaf ears were it not for the lot of you that put up with me waxing romantic about thunderstorms or caramelizing pudding mix or throwing parties with my friends that real people don’t actually attend.
I’ll repeat: people don’t party with me in real life, you guys.
But you do.
So as appropriate as it may have seemed to dedicate what might be the loveliest platter of food I’ve put forth this summer to the Virginia native that’s all up in my virtual queue, I’d much rather it go to you pretty people.
The people that take time to pop over to check in on things, even if it’s only once or twice. Who take time out of your days to — and it still continues to make my mind reel — read a bit about what I’m doing with mine. (Some of you aren’t even related to me by blood! Is that so crazy?) And to those of you who’ve allowed my recipes to appear before your family and friends. I mean, that happens! And it will never not be a completely (delicious) shock to me. Just wow, guys.
You’re totally bigger studs than Sean Brock.
And above all else:
P.S. Giant detour: If I’m talking about our experience in Charleston, I can’t help but mention the beyond lovely meal we enjoyed at Wild Olive on Johns Island. I can’t give thanks enough to Lara, who so generously reached out to offer her suggestions for dining in and around Charleston when she learned we were headed in that direction. (Honestly, you guys – isn’t the food blogging community a beautiful and wondrous thing?) The restaurant was just enough off the beaten path that we had only penciled it onto our belly list — stupidly so, I now know. At Lara’s gentle urging, we met her at Wild Olive for what turned out to be one of the most memorable meals of the trip, thanks in no small part to Chef Larson, who — despite his staid cheffyness — oozes crinkly-eyed warmth and kindness. Of course I have exactly zero pictures to corroborate my story, but it goes something like: tender squid swimming in a light and savory tomato broth; buttery chicken liver on crackly slices of toast; toothsome papardelle speckled with salty guanciale. And a virtual tennis racket of charcuterie that elicited an eruption of giddy giggles from the whole table. If ever you have the opportunity, it’s so worth your time to pop out of the city for a meal. And nope, no one’s paying me to say a thing. It’s just good food.
Grilled Melon & Prosciutto Caprese (grain-free)
By Emily Stoffel
Cook time: 20 mins | Serves 2 as a (generous) meal, 4 as a side
Note: Save for the prosciutto and mozzarella, this salad was 100% driven by the bounty of fresh goodies in our weekly CSA, including those gorgeous cherry and Indigo Rose tomatoes, and it’s that freshness that lends such beauty to this plate. In that spirit, please do feel free to swap in whatever just-picked melons, tomatoes or tender baby greens you have on hand. It’ll still be delicious.
- 2 large handfuls spinach
- 6 slices prosciutto
- 1/2 cantaloupe melon, peeled, seeds removed and sliced about 1/2″ thick
- large handful basil
- 1 pint tomatoes (or other seasonal tomatoes of your choice – whatever’s sweet and gorgeous)
- 12 small bocconcini mozzarella
- drizzle balsamic glaze (we use this one; there’s also a good version at TJ’s)
- good olive oil for grilling and drizzling
- coarsely cracked black pepper
- good flakey salt
Heat a grill or indoor grill pan to med-high heat. Peel and seed cantaloupe. Cut into 1/2″ (or thicker) crescents. (Any thinner and it will become a mushy mess on the grill.) Lightly drizzle melon with olive oil.
Place melon on hot grill and cook until just marked on one side only, about 1-2 mins. Do not overcook. (You’ll end up with a slippery bit of mush that’s decidedly unattractive.) Promptly remove to a plate.
On a large platter, arrange spinach, prosciutto (little wound up rosettes completely optional) and grilled melon. Tuck basil throughout. Scatter tomatoes and bocconcini atop. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and olive oil. Generously season with coarsely cracked pepper and flaked salt. Enjoy!