There are definite benefits to prop styling for a cookbook shoot, as I did the week before last—see photo above. A lovely lunch like this and it’s hard not to love your job. The beautiful table was not part of the set, but spontaneously assembled leftovers served from a prop surface that sat on two sawhorses.
Those of us working the shoot were lucky enough to sample the many fine, mostly vegetarian dishes in this simply gorgeous setting.
I was absolutely taken with the abundance of colorful, crunchy veggies fresh from the farmer’s market on this shoot—and even more inspired to grow my own. I had all but given up on my garden this year. With the launch of Sweet Home this April, I got behind on many things, and unfortunately spring planting was one of them.
Although I had actually grown a number of things last year, my humble, three-bed garden looked like it had been abandoned for decades—fallen branches had unhinged the fencing, weeds had overtaken the entire space, and it was nearly impossible to get in the gate.
However, when I saw these luscious watermelon radishes, I thought, “It’s not too late, I can do this.”
Are these slices of pink and and creamy white gorgeous or what? Mixed with some mesclun, avocado, and a tossed with a light vinaigrette, you’ve got a perfect summer salad.
So this past weekend I motivated my girls—including our guest, a 15-year-old French student who is staying with us for a good stint this summer—to get out and garden with me. There was no time to waste, we worked furiously to get the beds ready for planting, and succeeded.
We will plant mostly lettuces, kale, other quick-growing crops, and of course—watermelon radishes. If you, too, would like to try out growing these beauties, check out the Sustainable Seed Company. They grow 50% of their seeds and have commendable green initiatives. And if you don’t have access to land, try planting radishes in a window box—these easy-to-grow seeds may just make you believe you have a green thumb. Oh how I wish I had one, but I’ve not yet given up.
I’ll keep you posted on the garden’s progress, and let you know how my radishes grow.
For now, head to the farmer’s market and grab up whatever inspiring produce you can find, from golden carrots to purple cauliflower, and eat it plain or lightly dressed. Following is a recipe for my most dependable, everyday vinaigrette (it’s worth the three minutes it takes to mix up…bottled dressings just don’t compare). It seems almost stupidly simple, but the secret here is proportion. Always keep a one to three—vinegar to oil—ratio and you can’t go wrong, your dressing won’t be too sour or too oily. For a slightly thicker dressing, replace the vinegar with balsamic glaze, which is a bottled balsamic reduction, and a great addition to any pantry. The glaze thickens the dressing and adds a hint of sweetness.
Makes enough for one very large salad
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze
6 tablespoons very good extra-virgin olive oil
2 heaping teaspoons Dijon mustard
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Place the vinegar or glaze in the bottom of your salad bowl and add a few large pinches of salt. Using a fork, whisk in the olive oil until it’s fully incorporated. Continue to whisk in the mustard. Finish your dressing with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add greens to your bowl and toss.