Am's Summer Salad

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a Michael Pollan book talk which included a lunch and signing. I enthusiastically signed up, not really taking into account what I'd be doing that week. As the event approached, my orders piled up and I became more and more anxious about missing two hours of my workday for it. 

But, of course, the talk was amazing and I'm so glad I went. Not only was it a great time for Cate and I to bond, but we savored a lovely three course meal from Moulin and took in some wise words from Michael Pollan.

He previously wrote a book called the Omnivore's Dilemma. Though I never got a chance to read it, Cate spiritedly gave me all the highlights and important details. I had also seen him on talk shows before and found his information very intriguing. There's one quote by him in particular that has been floating around the internet for a while now. 
"Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants." 

When I saw him on Oprah years ago, I liked that he wasn't necessarily vegan or vegetarian or trying to promote a certain type of diet--he simply felt it was important to know where his food came from and to raise awareness for other people. He doesn't claim to be an expert or a nutritionist. He just likes writing about food.

It wasn't until l came across this article which happened to be an excerpt from his new book, that I became most excited to meet this man.
The excerpt is about cooking and how people don't do it enough. It's become something corporations have taken charge of and now Americans spend an average of twenty-seven minutes in the kitchen, and only four minutes for cleanup. It's absurd to people like me and Joe and probably all my food blogger friends who pay so much time and attention to their dishes. 
Of course, we love a good meal out and don't always eat healthy, but one of our favorite pastimes is learning to make dishes at home that are generally difficult (we're currently working on dim sum). It doesn't matter that the food is widely available in restaurants--we enjoy the process of cooking it ourselves and delighting in our skills.

Here are some of the things Pollan talked about:

*The importance of getting your kids in the kitchen and encouraging them to do a little something, even if it's just mincing some garlic or chopping some vegetables. "The best thing you can do for your kids' longterm health is get them to chop an onion before doing their homework." There's a huge emphasis on academics but not so much on kitchen skills and learning to feed yourself, which ultimately affects your well-being.

When I was a kid, my mom would make me devein all the shrimp. Sounds (and it was) a little gross, but I felt special having an important task to do, even if I do buy all my shrimp deveined now, hah. 

*Pollan shared a story of how he had a garden in his backyard that he called his "farm" and would grow strawberries and then sell them to his mother.

*How microwaves are useful but they're still only single serving portions. "I consider microwaves the Ayn Rand of appliances." 

*How any form of adding ingredients or changing food is a form of cooking. You can take a frozen meal, modify it, and call it cooking. Even making a simple sandwich is a form of cooking. 
The book is divided up into four sections: Earth, fire, water, and air. Pollan tries to master classic recipes using each of the elements, and visits experts in each field to teach him the best ways to do so.

*"Good cooking starts with great farming. And great farming makes cooking really easy."

Once the talk opened to questions from the audience, a person mentioned that as part of her job, she teaches cooking to elementary and middle-school kids. However, it was disheartening to hear that she was trying to get the kids to follow up by cooking at home but they never could because parents insisted they couldn't make time for it.

I certainly never had cooking classes as part of school when I was a kid so they're on the right step there. It took me until I was almost out of college to spend more time putting together a meal beyond just eating Lean Cuisines. 
It's important that kids and their parents view cooking and sharing a meal not as another mindless chore but something to enjoy and relish.

Along the same note, I just signed up for my first CSA-type thing with Green Bean Delivery and I could not be more excited! It arrived today and everything looks delicious... We chose leeks, broccolini, mushrooms, some ground bison, local bread, asparagus and some citrus fruits.

In honor of Michael Pollan's new book, I thought I'd share a recipe for my favorite summer salad. I was trying to eat it through the winter with dried cranberries, which were tasty, but I still prefer watermelon to the rest. I know many people love strawberry salads but they just aren't my thing. This, a combination of watermelon, feta, and pecans, just works.

I hardly ever used to eat salads at home because I thought they were rather boring. It didn't occur to me to jazz it up until much, much later. I love sampling random mixes of greens even though I mostly can't tell them apart. And I love having different textures in each bite, held together with a vinegar-y sweetness.

I know the blog makes it seem like I eat a ton of desserts all the time, and I do eat probably more than is necessary, but I try to make it up to my body by keeping my meals very healthy (and I also exercise). 
I go through phases of eating this salad almost every day and certainly a few times a week, mainly when I can get my hands on a fresh watermelon

I also love wrapping prosciutto around watermelon slices, or just enjoying the fruit pureed into a juice. You can't go wrong with watermelon! Unless you're allergic, in which case, I'm so sorry.

Am's Summer Salad
Makes 1 bowl
(Adjust the amounts of everything according to taste)

Spring mix of greens (or just baby spinach), washed clean
Sprinkling of pepper
1/2 cup watermelon, cubed
handful of pecans or walnuts
small handful of feta or goat cheese
half an avocado, sliced
one slice of red onion

Toss all ingredients in a bowl.
Drizzle with Brianna's homestyle Salad dressing 

Joe prefers this particular salad with a honey mustard dressing by the same brand while I can't eat it without the French vinaigrette flavoring. Others swear by the blush vinaigrette. But we all basically agree that this brand of dressing is boss


  1. Not sure I've ever had watermelon on a salad, but you can't go wrong with goat cheese, pecans, and avocado. All the best salad toppings in one bowl!

    We also like Brianna's dressings, especially the poppyseed. I actually used the ingredient list, nutrition info (for sugar and salt quantities), and some nutrition knowledge to recreate the recipe.

  2. That looks so refreshing, especially given the heat wave St. Louis is starting to get. Thanks for sharing! I had never thought of putting watermelon on a salad.

  3. i wanted to go to the Michael Pollan event so badly! But life gets in the way sometimes...too many things going on right now, it seems. Your assessment of the book was fantastic, and it makes me want to go buy it even more now than i already did. I love his thoughts on food and cooking, and he's right: the kitchen as an important place has fallen by the wayside. Cooking (and baking) changes everything, i think. Especially about your perspective of food and where it comes from, and how it can be so much more than just food, you know?
    I love your summer salad: it's got everything i love about summer. It seems like i eat cookies and cake three times a day too when you see my posts, but i eat completely opposite of that most days - very healthy, very light. gotta make up for all the baked goods lying around. :)


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