We had a wonderful time in Maine last month. The weather was hit or miss with some days of sun and some days of rain, but the dreary days were far nicer than anticipated. A good excuse to bake cookies, read books, and drive forty-five minutes to the closest movie theater. (Or at least the closest theater that shows movies released in the current decade.) Rangeley is a tiny Maine town. There’s one grocery store, one bookstore, an old stone library, one K – 12 school with a dozen students per grade, a handful of restaurants, sporting good shops, and antique stores. And of course a historical society with a dresser full of local bird eggs and a logging museum full of chainsaws and old photos of bearded men wearing plaid. There’s an ice cream stand that serves Gifford’s and bags of corn kernels to feed the ducks in the pond out back. There are four churches. (Needless to say, there’s no synagogue.) Or traffic lights or chain stores. It’s a little slice of heaven.
The sunny days were even better than the rainy days. We buzzed around the lake on the boat and cut the motor in a quiet cove on the south shore, so we could eat our sandwiches and watch the loons floating nearby. We spent hours on the dock, talking and eating, or lounging on the raft and letting the waves lull us half to sleep. We dove into the water and caught our breaths when the cold hit our skin and cleared our pores and woke us up out of a multi-month-DC-humidity-induced daze. We hiked a little patch of the Appalachian, from Route 16 to Piazza rock, crossing several streams and small, trickling waterfalls and happening upon small patches of Indian Pipe – a fascinatingly strange and completely white plant that doesn’t use photosynthesis, but feeds parasitically off of fungi that live in symbiosis with tree roots. Weird, right? (That, by the way, is the only fact I retained from my freshman year botany course.)
Of course we returned home from this gloriously idyllic world to the middle of a dozen day heatwave in DC and I immediately questioned why we ever moved away from New England. But here we are back in our hectic, humid lives, where even the thought of a cool, clear 65 degree day seems like a distant memory. But that’s okay, life is good. We’re having fun and I’m making lots of salad. Because that’s what you do when it’s a million degrees in the shade. Tonight’s salad features artichokes which I’m insanely excited about because Matt doesn’t like artichokes and he agreed to give them a try for me. (That’s true love, no?) These chokes are sliced super thin on the mandolin and served raw. You’ll hardly recognize them. They’re crispy and refreshing and pair perfectly with the arugula and percorino. And while I would never (never!) turn down a steamed artichoke dredged in butter, in the middle of August these cold, raw artichokes are everything.
Raw Artichoke and Herb Salad from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi
2 to 3 large globe artichokes
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups arugula
1/2 cup torn mint leaves
1/2 cup torn cilantro leaves
1 ounce pecorino toscano or romano cheese, thinly shaved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Prepare a bowl with water mixed with half of the lemon juice.
2. Remove the stem from one artichoke and pull off the tough outer leaves. Once you reach the softer, pale leaves, use a large, sharp knife to cut across the flower so that you are left with the bottom quarter. Use a small, sharp knife to remove the outer layers of the artichoke until the base (or bottom) is exposed. Scrape out the hairy “choke” and put the base in the acidulated water. Discard the rest, then repeat with the other artichokes.
3. Drain the artichokes and pat dry with paper towels. Using a mandoline (or a large, sharp knife), cut the artichokes into paper-thin slices and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Squeeze over the remaining lemon juice, add the olive oil, and toss well to coat. You can leave the artichoke for up to a few hours if you like, at room temperature.
4. When ready to serve, add the arugula, mint, and cilantro to the artichoke and season with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Toss gently and arrange on serving plates. Garnish with the pecorino shavings.