It may not seem like it, what with the cool, wet weather, but we’re entering the summer cooking season.
Summer cooking, to me, is a mixture of the light and the heavy.
It is a time for sliced tomatoes, fresh cucumbers, fresh picked strawberries, blackberries and corn on the cob.
It also is a time for smoked ribs, briskets, steaks on the grill, thick pork chops and whole grilled chickens.
Summer also is a time for something in between, like the chicken salad that I’m going to whip up as soon as I finish this column.
When I was single, I made chicken salad all the time. But when I got married, I discovered that my wife and I came at chicken salad from two different directions. One of us was from Venus, and one of us was from Mars.
I like a hearty chicken salad with smoked chicken, lots of onions and spices. My wife likes a light chicken salad with tender chicken, little if any onion, and fruit.
“You don’t put fruit in chicken salad,” I told my wife.
“Yes, you do,” my wife said. “And you don’t need all of that onion.”
My wife and I agreed to disagree.
Awhile back, I came across a chicken salad that breaches our onion/fruit divide. It’s a recipe that offers the heartiness that I crave and the lightness my wife prefers.
The secret is bacon. Adding bacon to chicken salad is so smart I can’t believe I hadn’t heard about it before. To contrast the heartiness of the bacon, the recipe calls for grapes. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be a fan of grapes in chicken salad, but in my mind the bacon cancels the fruit out. I also added onion to the chicken salad, but I used green onions instead of yellow and I didn’t add as much as I usually do. The result was a chicken salad that both my wife and I agree on.
Tuesday morning, I drove over to the Webb City Farmers Market for supplies. No offense to the people who work at the stores where I buy my beer, but the Webb City Farmers Market is my favorite place to shop.
There is something reassuring knowing where the food you are buying comes from. At the Webb City Farmers Market, not only can you be sure that what you are buying is fresh and grown locally, but in most cases you can talk to the people who produced what you’re buying.
It was raining when I pulled into the farmers market, but the place was as busy as ever. I stopped at one booth and picked up some fresh green onions. At another booth, I picked up some purple onions and cucumbers. At yet another booth, I picked up a small box of tomatoes. The cucumbers and purple onions will go into a salad my wife will make later, and the tomatoes … well, sliced tomatoes go well with anything.
I don’t know about you, but I like my sliced tomatoes chilled and with a bit of salt and pepper.
While I was there, I also picked up a couple of cherry tarts for my wife and our 15-year-old daughter. After I paid for the pastries, I walked back to my car and drove home.
It was time to write, but more importantly, it was time for chicken salad.
Originally published in the Joplin Globe on Jun 4, 2013