Insta-Salad is Where It’s At

Insta-salad is what I call already-prepped and ready-to-go lettuce, and it’s one of those things that just makes everything go along a little better.

(Parenthetical screed: I’m not talking about any of the many and various bag o’ leafy greens. However, since I’ve invoked them, let’s just get one important thing out of the way right quick here: No matter WHAT is evinced on the label—organic, “triple-washed,” WHATEVER—you NEED TO WASH them.)

Do you have a favorite way to prep and store lettuce? If so, do that.

As for me: Whether it’s lovely tender redleaf from the farmers market, or small, sturdy-crisp Little Gem from a supermarket pack, I scrub and rinse my sink, install the stopper, and separate the leaves into this cool bath. Swish, often a drain-refill-additional swish before a trip through the plastic centrifuge of my thrift-store French salad spinner and out onto a cloth to further drip for a moment before being gently loaded into a Ziploc® bag with a piece of paper towel lining the bottom. (In these days of one-use plastic consciousness, I hasten to say that I wash and reuse my lettuce bags.) Tuck into the crisper drawer, and sleep the sleep of one untroubled by the worry of where her next salade is coming from.

Trader Joe’s Laguna Hills 2.0

The Trader Joe’s in Laguna Hills, on Avenida Carlota near the moribund Laguna Hills Mall, has always had a parking lot that wasn’t quite as bad as other stores, which is saying something, as you know from the cliché-with-a-molten-center-of-truth about Trader Joe’s parking lots in general.

This location has long been a convenient stop after the Friday farmer’s market at the far end of the aforementioned mall. But there’s news, and it’s big: as of 8 a.m. today, things are even a whole lot better. A new, kind of huge, purpose-built Trader Joe’s has opened across the parking lot, looming—if not lording—over the old, kind of sad strip housing the original store. There’s parking aplenty! Or, seems like it. Once parked, howevah, you still take your life in your hands crossing the two lanes passing in front of the store. Some things continue to never change, I guess.

UNCANNY

For years I’ve made preserves and pickles, originally to get in touch with how my grandmother might have run her kitchen and later just for pleasure, always canning them in a boiling-water bath so they’ll be shelf-stable. (Have not yet made the leap to pressure canning; perhaps someday.) But with my first 2017 strawberry jam, made from a three-pack I bought at my new favorite Chino farm stand and Meyer lemon from our little tree, I merely refrigerated, part of a newly hatched plan to streamline the process of keeping my family in homemade preserves for breakfast toast. You might not imagine that daily breakfast toast, which accompanies daily breakfast omelets, could account for all that much preserve use—but every-day-ness adds up. With a few discards, the three-pack nicely filled two 500-milliliter French jelly jars—which I’ve always considered the Platonic Ideal of jelly jars. Even though I’ve owned them for 30-plus years, my jars and their orange lids have never actually been used for jelly. Jam’ll have to be close enough. (This is 2017’s second batch.)

Farmers Marketing—Laguna Hills Friday

It’s long been my favorite of our many good Orange County farmers markets, something that remained true today when I stopped in: the Friday Laguna Hills market, at Laguna Hills Mall. It was the first day of a new, construction-accommodating configuration near JCP, nicely visible from Carlota and the 5, that displays the superb vendor selection and ingress/egress ease to fine effect. I love it because it’s a real cook’s market—which is SO not to say you shouldn’t avail yourself of the fab prepared food. Just be sure to take home a couple big bags of raw ingredients, to fuel a weekend of great cooking.

 

CAULIFLOWERLICIOUS

Cauli is where it’s at, at the moment. These were at Laguna Niguel/Aliso Viejo on a recent Sunday, but you’ll find ‘em at all O.C. farmers markets. I nabbed that big yellow one in the center there. Rinse, slice, onto a baking sheet, generous salt & pepper, drizzle with oil. 400̊ for 15-20 for retaining slight crispness, or longer at 375̊ to utter tenderness and deep caramelization—my favorite result.