Friday, June 20, 2014

Tomato & Peach Salad // Summer Nights (Week 43)

Every now and again, the shop allows us to do some really amazing things. Because of the shop, we’ve been invited to seriously cool events around the city that we otherwise would have zero access to. We’ve been afforded the chance to meet a whole slew of talented chefs, artists, editors and other individuals who otherwise likely never would have crossed our paths. A few weekends back, we were granted access to another of these opportunities, right at the start of the summer. Though exhausting, it proved to be the perfect way to begin the season.

If you’ve ever watched a (bad) chick flick about Manhattan, then you’re familiar with the scene: two young, very attractive lovers set sail on a picturesque ferry ride, the scenic New York City skyline standing tall just behind them as they travel to, well, who knows where? Likely, they’re onboard a ferry heading toward one of the small islands that speckle the waters just beyond Manhattan’s shoreline.

In early June, Jay and I and our crew headed to one such island – Randall’s Island – to serve as food vendors for a popular three-day music festival known as the Governor’s Ball.

Going into the event, we anticipated that it would be one of our two most hectic weekends of the summer season. In addition to the festival, we would also have to make sure things were set and ready to go at our shop, as well as at several other pop-up markets we’d have in operation around the city. If we were still twenty-one, I have no doubt that Jay and I would have spent all our hard earned dollars to attend the festival. However, at thirty-two, it just seemed like it was going to be loooong: in total, the festival would ultimately require our team’s attention for more than eighteen-hours per day for three days straight. In short, Jay and I would need to be up at 3:30 a.m. on Friday, work until 2:00 a.m., be up again at 6:00 a.m. and then repeat the whole schedule for the next two days.

But despite this knowledge, at the time of our (very early) wake up call on Friday, we were in great spirits. Sure, we would need to work at the festival, but our booth would also be situated in between two stages, meaning we could comfortably perch beneath our shaded awning, surrounded by food and coolers filled with cold water, while we listened to the bands. It would be busy, but it would also be fun, right?

However, it was on Saturday morning, while I lugged a wobbly hand truck stacked with cases of those soon-to-be-ice-cold bottles of water and ten-pound bags of ice up a muddy hill, weaving it between scantily-clad college kids and balancing my phone on my shoulder while Jay freaked out about a missing menu sign that the whole thing sort of lost its appeal. I was hot. I was sweaty. I was sleep deprived. Jay already had a giant bruise on his face after a mishap unloading our van, and neither of us had yet to have a bite to eat. I just knew that hidden somewhere in the crowds of young concertgoers some manifestation of my twenty-one year old self was surely six beers deep, dancing on one of the vast lawns and shaking her head in disappointment. Sigh…

After three super intense days, by about seven o’clock on Sunday night, things slowly began to wind down. When I finally sat down to catch my breath for a moment, it occurred to me that, during the last three days, I’d had hardly anything to eat save for a few bottles of water, a piece of fruit, and one bowl of very good sticky rice.

While I’m known for always having a pretty serious appetite, after three days of working in the hot sun, despite my hunger, all I wanted was a few bites of something cool and fresh. This Tomato and Peach Salad, which we served at the festival in addition to our slow braised meat sandwiches, completely revived me. I’m from the school of thought that a ripe tomato can pretty much serve as a meal (I have a tendency to consume them like apples after plucking them fresh from the vine in the summer), and after a long, hot weekend, a bowl of meaty tomatoes paired with oh-so-familiar fresh basil leaves felt like the perfect source of nourishment. However, the unexpected addition of super sweet, sugary slices of stone fruit cooled my whole body down and gave me the energy to muster up a short-lived second wind. After eating a giant bowl of this crazy easy-to-make summer salad and downing about a half dozen bottles of water, Jay and I decided to ditch our booth for a bit so we could go enjoy a few beers together and check out one of our favorite bands, Vampire Weekend. While we were both exhausted, our bodies sore from being on our feet, as we stood on the outskirts of the crowd down near the front of the stage, I couldn’t help but feel satisfied. Before us, swarms of college kids guzzled beers and twirled one another in the warm early summer night air, a sprawling view of the illuminated New York City skyline just above their heads. Though the weekend was long and we both craved the comfort of our bed, for a fleeting moment, as I finished my beer and listened as the band sang their familiar lyrics, my husband standing beside me, I couldn’t help but think how fortunate we were to be there.

Tomato & Peach Salad 

- 4-5 large, ripe tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 3-4 large, ripe peaches
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves

Throughly rinse the tomatoes, peaches and basil. Dice tomatoes and add to a large bowl. Pour the salt onto the diced tomatoes and give them a good mix. Allow the tomatoes to sit, uncovered, for about ten minutes, or until their juices begin to fill the bottom of the bowl. Next, dice the peaches and add them to the bowl. Thinly slice or chiffonade the basil leaves, add them to the fruit mixture, and throughly mix the salad. Add more salt to taste. The salad can be eaten immediately, though when covered and stored in the fridge, it tastes even better the next day. 

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