First the confession: I'm not innately a vegetable lover. Yes, tomatoes and petite green peas are always adored, and corn, cucumbers, avocados, green peppers, and beets are looked forward to, but when it comes to the real Good For You veggies - broccoli, kale, chard, turnips, brussels sprouts - I secretly balk. I eat them because they are good for me, and often I actually really like what I'm eating, but from a very early age I trained myself to eat my vegetables first so I could enjoy the rest of my dinner. And I still do this, some 30 odd years later.
But, this week I had an epiphany: I got home from the Jersey Shore and found rainbow chard and lettuce ready to eat in my garden, and then picked up the weekly CSA farm share of summer squash, chard, and arrowhead cabbage, and then went down to the farmers' market on Saturday and got gorgeous beets, kohlrabi, and turnips. And all week I have been craving the time I can eat those veggies. Because of the 4th of July and the festivities around that, last night was the first night we cooked at home since picking up all of these really fresh, locally grown vegetables. The colors are vibrant, the flavors gentle and distinct, the cooking simple. This is what summer is made of, and this is why I was interested in this project in the first place. I just needed a reminder of why vegetables are so delicious.
Last night we lightly steamed rainbow chard and sliced raw kohlrabi and served it sprinkled with salt, which is a longtime favorite of my husband's family in Nebraska. I'm already dreaming of tonight's dinner when I can make mashed turnips and pick fresh peas from the garden. And beets and carrots are waiting expectantly in my fridge, too. Maybe we'll have a vegetable-only meal; won't my kids love that!
And now the margarita. My husband is a drink master, but this was actually dreamed up by my sister's boyfriend, Jason, himself a mixologist, with a little input from me, and mixed by my sister, Amy. A true group effort, and so good - - and seasonal.
The idea for cilantro salt came from Martha Stewart. She recommended it for grilled corn on the cob, and it was nice. We had a lot left over and rather than throw it out, we put it in a bowl and left it on the counter. We sprinkled it on meat, eggs, you name it. It went quickly, so I made more. I think it will last a while without going bad because the salt acts as a preservative, though three batches later, we still can't keep it around for more than a day or two.
Mince cilantro leaves until finely chopped and put in a small bowl or ramekin. Add an equal amount fine sea salt and stir until mixed well.
Mint Margaritas with Cilantro Salt
This recipe makes one drink. Multiply as necessary.
Rim chilled margarita or cocktail glasses with cilantro salt (pour salt onto a plate and turn glass upside down, rolling edges in salt until well covered; if salt doesn't stick, rub lime juice on rim).
Into a shaker add:
1 1/2 ounces tequila
6 mint leaves
Muddle mint with tequila using a wooden spoon until mint is bruised and breaking.
Fill shaker with ice and add:
1/2 ounce cointreau
3/4 ounce lime juice
Shake well, until very cold and pour into prepared glasses, adding a little ice.