Cars, Cats, and Cooking Without a Net: “Jerusalem” Salad with Goat Cheese and Dill

Let me tell you about my day. It started with a phonecall from a man in a truck. The man in the truck was supposed to pick up my car on Tuesday to deliver to my grandparents in Florida who are assuming ownership now that I’ll be riding subways and horse-and-buggies around Manhattan. I’ve had my car since my sixteenth birthday which means I’ve been driving it for NINE years—almost a decade of shifting gears and blasting mix CDs featuring eclectic pairings of show tunes, pop songs and 60s relics. Passengers frequently requested radio.

I named my car Bruno after my friends and I in high school started naming our cars. The only one I can remember is my friend Amy’s car Matilda because I wrote a song about it called “Matilda, Queen of the Road” featured on the hit CD “The Bus with My Initials.” (Yes, my shameful secret is that when I was 16 my father “produced” a CD of nine songs that I wrote, composed and sang. May your ears forever be spared its prepubescent shrieking.)

The funny thing about my car is that my parents bought it for me because they wanted me to be safe on the road. That’s funny because they bought me a Ford Explorer. I can list a thousand reasons why that’s funny, among them the fact it was recalled 90 times for faulty tires, faulty suspension, faulty trunk. Nevermind that because I had the biggest car I drove the most people thereby incurring the most liability–but I have no complaints. My car and I have been through a lot. I was looking forward to a tender departure.

And then the phonecall. The man in the truck said he was a few days early because his wife was in the hospital and could he come pick up the car now? Well, no, he couldn’t really—I mean I have a ton of stuff I still need to move and throw out and places to go and people to see and… well what are my options? “I can come now or there won’t be another trucker through til the end of August.”

I met him in the Kroger parking lot, passed over my key, and bid Bruno farewell.

Meanwhile, earlier today I had a moment of parental crisis when Lolita had what seemed like a drug induced seizure. Let me explain. Yesterday, I took Lolita to the vet to get a bill of health so I can fly with her on Friday up to Manhattan. On the way there, Lolita threw quite a fit. And by that I mean she meowed at a decibel range that would shatter the eardrums of Mariah Carey. This was bad. This cannot happen on the plane.

So when we got to the vet, Lolita sat unhappily on the examination table. The doctor came in and I told he how worried I was about the high-pitched screaming. The doc prescribed cat tranquilizers and she suggested that today (Saturday) I give her one to see how she reacts. Very well, I thought.

So today I gave her one and she seemed fine and then I was sitting at my desk, typing a thesis on world hunger, when I hear a kerplunk in the other room. I run out there and Lollita is on her back, her eyes glazed over and her paws in the air. I ran to the phone and called the vet who told me that it’s normal, to set her on her feet and to see if she walks. She did. All was ok. But poor Lolita slumped around the apartment today like Liza Minelli at Studio 54.

There, plus the packing and organizing and going through things, was my stressful day. For dinner I wanted something special, something celebratory, something visceral. For dinner I wanted the Jerusalem salad I had in Albany (see: Albany post).

So popping a cat tranquilizer, I slumped over to Whole Foods where I decided to shop and cook on instinct…cooking without a net, as the title of this post implies. I bought baby arugala. I bought dill. I boughut a lemon. I bought goat cheese. I bought mutton. Ok, just kidding about the mutton.

I got home and washed some baby arugala and put it into a bowl. I chopped up a tomato, a cucumber and a red onion and threw it in:

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Then I chopped some dill:

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Remember Dill from “To Kill a Mockingbird”? Did you know he’s based on Truman Capote?

I attempted a dressing I saw on TV once, which is basically just lemon and olive oil, salt and pepper.

Here’s the lemon:

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Here’s the olive oil:

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Salt, pepper and taste—and it tastes ok. Retrospectively, I think it needed vinegar but I was living in the moment. Cooking without a net. Did I already say that?

Finally, presentation. I decided to use Boticelli’s Primavera as my model:

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Floral yet winsome; dark with edges of light. In other words, this:

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See how I mounded the salad in the middle and created a border of dill with the goat cheese layered on top? Yeah, that was all me. You know you’re jealous. Admit it. Some of us are just inspired. Others of us drink wine while we cook.

Wine, cat tranquilizers and goat cheese and I’m set. Now drop the disco ball and pass the silver spoon. Hey is that Ricky Schroeder?

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