Blogging is a strange avenue of expression. It is an open can-of-worms of opinions, expressions, and not at all approved, edited, or formatted by any professional publisher. In my case, recipes are created, enjoyed, and un-tested by a professional chef. No one is making money off my blog or my food (while I’d like to!), but yet it puts everything out there – one big $5.99 Vegas buffet loaded high with my cooking style, writing style, personal stories, and cooking tips and antidotes.
Thinking about it, rather than a Vegas buffet, writing a blog is more like checking out at the drug store. Likely, most people buy an over-the-counter-something-or-another to cure, fix, heal, whatever ailment they have at that moment. Sometimes the checkout experience is simple and unassuming, like nail polish remover and a pack of gum. Other times the very-public purchase is somewhat more embarrassing, like foot fungal cream, or hemorrhoid ointment. People don’t “have to” buy these things to survive, but sort of “need to” to again, cure, fix, heal, etc., and it can be blush-worthy.
Over the last few years, writing my blog has been my drug-store-check-out, providing me with the necessary “fix” of expression. First and foremost, it’s always been about the food. However, food alone can still leave something to be desired: the people enjoying it, of course! As in my life, food revolves around stories, events, and silly life happenings.
Sometimes, like sending my husband to the drug store to buy tampons, sharing has been embarrassing; but I also choose to share, so there’s not the slightest urge to complain. Only occasionally, there have been some sad-story moments, but humorous occurrences that seem to happen to my family and me on an almost daily basis always quickly follow. I have put my husband, mom, dad, sister, in-laws, extended family, and even my dog on the Blog-o-Sphere hot seat, all in the name of 42potatoes: And Many More Cooking Experiences.
Because of this, a phrase has developed in our household: You should blog about that!
For example, here are only just a few of those moments that have elicited the You should blog about that! mantra:
Literally every time (and I am using the word ‘literally,’ literally here) I go to drive Rob’s car, the “Low Tire Pressure” light comes on. Like the car sighs when I sit in it. (YSBAT!)
Sig stealthily stealing a barely eaten cheeseburger that was harmlessly, and quickly, put down on a table our friends house. (YSBAT!)
When one of my students said he wanted to go live with Rob, but didn’t want to live with me. (YSBAT!)
The American Flag cake off of Food 52 that was a feat for me to accomplish, but I did it! (YSBAT!)
Rob almost dying in a Panamanian hospital (I’d rather not relive those days…)
How people can’t watch movies with me, specifically Robin Hood Men in Tights, because I say all the words (and do all the dance moves). I think Rob’s exact words were, with disgust, “You turn into another person when that movie comes on.” (YSBAT!)
When Rob and I went to TPC Sawgrass and saw our favorite golfers, I told him that I always thought he was amazing at golf, and had the best swing I’ve ever seen, until I saw Bubba Watson. He didn’t appreciate that so much. But then agreed. (YSBAT!)
When we tied ribbons around three big pine trees to try to save them from the chopping massacre happening on the lot next door. Yes, our Oregon-ness still rings true. (YSBAT!)
Then we started grilling Strawberry BBQ Chicken, and the smoke blew from our patio onto the workers; we didn’t put up a fight about the trees after that. (YSBAT!)
How Rob’s mom starting secretly giving one of us the answers to our nightly ritual of watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune – In Connecticut she sees them in reverse, so Rob and I would foolishly impress each other with super hard-to-get answers. So now whenever either one of us really does get a hard answer correct, it’s always followed with, “Did you get a text?! Let me see your phone…” (YSBAT!)
When I learned to surf, and the really embarrassing injuries that ensued. (YSBAT!)
How our little 17-lb. pup gets a running start and then body-checks me in the kitchen, hitting me perfectly on the weak part of my hip to almost knock me down in order to get a taste of roasted chicken. (YSBAT!)
When I overflowed a pot of deep-frying oil, twice. This was a yikes-in-the-kitchen moment. But nothing was keeping us from Shoestring Sweet Potato Fries with Wasabi Lime Fry-Sauce, so the frying continued while continually cleaning up to our elbows in oil and paper towels. (YSBAT!)
When Jenn and I poured French Rose wine into mason jar mugs to take to the pool – we were perfecting our good Southern girl redneck-ness. (YSBAT!)
How my mom always yells the phrase, “No laughing, no laughing!” when doing, or carrying, something hard, difficult, heavy, etc., and it always results in rip-roaring laugher, and almost broken toes. (YSBAT!)
When my friend’s Italian husband gave her a hard time about ordering cheese ravioli at a fancy Italian restaurant, so together we made cheese ravioli from scratch (including making the ricotta) so she could show him just how fancy cheese ravioli could be. (YSBAT!)
How my sister, on a visit to JAX, showed up at the front door all dressed up and holding a tall, green, mason jar fish bowl, and I mistook her for a pretty saleslady selling pickles. I don’t know. No booze was involved, I promise. (YSBAT!)
When going to church with my in-laws, and during the Gospel, the heels and soles of my shoes literally started disintegrating under my feet leaving chunks of black rubber all over the floor. Is that a bad sign? (YSBAT!)
To make a long blog shorter than longer, there obviously have been, and will be, many more You should blog about that! moments.
All this reminiscing is fun, but also serves a purpose: this is 42potatoes 100th blog! Four years ago next month, I started this blog with the idea in mind to share my stories, recipes, and touch the people who thankfully read the blog. Hopefully, some food has been prepared and enjoyed, or at least culinary inspiration has been sparked inside a few of you wonderful people.
In my world, this also calls for a celebration – with food, of course! Keeping true to my roots of quality technique cooking with simple, true, local, and seasonal ingredients, here’s a beautiful, tasty, fresh, and perfect-for-a-cook-out celebration salad. The Carolinas, only a few hours away from us, are pumping out sweet, sweet, sweet seedless watermelons right now, and I’m indulging. This Watermelon Salad with Goat Cheese Froth and Basil Oil will knock your socks off. It’s the perfect start to a backyard BBQ meal, pairs perfectly with a bit of champagne or a hoppy IPA, and is fancy-shmancy enough for entertaining. My sister was the taste-tester – despite her aversion to green things, she enjoyed the pistou topping the watermelon stack (it is really just the solids from the basil oil flavored with a bit of salt. Waste not!)
Like melon and speck (ooh, another good name for a blog), the sweet-juicy and earthy-salty flavors pair dreamily. In this case, blending nutty almond milk with the grassy goat cheese creates an almost umami-flavored froth that never quite emulsifies with the basil oil. The flavors stay clean and distinct, but also humbly marry in the mouth. The finishing touch is a bit of quick-fried basil and thyme, just enough to crunch onto the dish, almost like tiny, herby croutons.
I hope you enjoy this dish – it’s a celebration of all these times I’ve entered Drugstore Blogtastic and came out with a comforting result. Thank you, my family and friends, for 1) eating my food, 2) reading my blog, and 3) (and most importantly), letting me write about you, too. Now, let’s eat!
Watermelon Salad with Goat Cheese Froth and Basil Oil
- 1 small (about 5 lbs) red, seedless watermelon, sliced into 1-in thick disks, and then using a biscuit cutter, punch out 2-3 rounds per dish (depending on the size of your cutter).
- 3 oz. goat cheese
- ½ c unsweetened almond milk
- 2 large sprigs fresh basil, divided
- 2-3 leaves fresh spinach (this isn’t for taste, its for the green color it imparts on the oil)
- 3-4 sprigs of thyme
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, divided in 4 (basically it is just a small dusting for each plate)
- ¼ c grapeseed oil
- 2 tbsp olive oil
* special equipment: blender
In a saucepan, heat up the olive oil, 1 sprig of basil, and all the sprigs of thyme. Turn heat on high, and when the herbs start to get noisy (spittering and spattering), turn off heat. Remove herbs to drain on a towel, and reserve for plating.
Using a blender, pour in the grapeseed oil, and add the basil and spinach. Whir until completely combined. Strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve, catching the oil in a small bowl, and reserve the solids to a different small bowl. Add a pinch of salt to the solids for seasoning (it will look like a pistou, or a very fine, delicate pesto).
After cleaning the blender, use it again for the goat cheese and the almond milk. Combine in the blender and whir until frothy.
To assemble the salad: pour a teaspoon of the goat cheese mixture in the center and then drizzle some basil oil around the plate. Sprinkle a dusting of cayenne pepper over the goat cheese and oil. Place one watermelon round on top of the goat cheese, and drizzle again with the goat cheese mixture and a bit of oil. Layer until finished, and then top with the pistou, a 2-finger dash of s&p, and the crunchy herbs.