Fig and Tomato Salad with Blue Cheeses and Pine Nuts

I have to admit that I when I heard about this recipe I wasn’t completely sure that figs and tomatoes would make a good match.  Usually when I make a salad with figs, it’s on a bed of greens and a very light, fruity vinaigrette.  But hey, it’s tomato and fig season, and so an experiment was in order.  We’ve had a disappointing year as far as tomatoes go in the garden—some kind of blight has taken all but the smallest cherry tomatoes—so we had to buy the tomatoes for this salad, which also made me doubtful, since I’ve gotten used to strolling out the back door to pick them warm when it’s time to make something.

For this salad, we went the extra step and peeled the tomatoes—probably not strictly necessary, but a nice touch.  And we used two kinds of blue cheese—a classic French Roquefort and a local blue.  If you’re not a fan of blue cheeses, any tangy, crumbly cheese will do.  As in usual in our dishes, we aren’t strict about measurements—we were feeding four people, so we cut up what looked like enough tomatoes and figs for four.

The ingredients list went something like this:


4 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced
8 figs fresh figs, tips cut off, quartered
2 varieties blue cheese, crumbled

Handful of toasted pine nuts, cooled


1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oi
Pinch salt, freshly ground pepper

A few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only, whisked into the dressing at the last minute

And that’s it.  Assemble it on a platter in layers, starting with the tomatoes, then the figs, then adding the crumbled cheeses and pine nuts.  Drizzle the dressing over all just before serving.

I was wrong to doubt the tomato/fig combination.  We licked our plates. Our tomato sadness evaporated.  It tasted just the way summer is supposed to taste.



In praise of friendship

Jon MaslowThis wonderful man, Jon Maslow, died a few months shy of his 60th birthday, 7 years ago this week.  We met in college, a tiny school in southern Vermont, where I was just about the youngest freshman, newly 17, and he was a lofty four years older, a senior.  It was like, maybe even love, at first sight.  Within minutes we knew we were soul mates.  I dated, and then lived with, Jon’s roommate.  Jon attracted all of the most beautiful women in the area with his dark grace and passion for living.  He was my first and best guy friend.

Jon made me laugh. He knew all my secrets, and I knew his. We came of age together, shared everything, and loved and respected each other. We coached and counseled each other through love affairs and marriages, and supported each other even when we didn’t approve of the inevitable bad choices and bad decisions.

I roamed with him in junkyards, looking for whatever he needed to repair his ancient Volvo.  I visited him in the winter on the farm where he lived with his friends Richard and Oliver—no electricity, no heat, no running water, but a massive wood stove kept us warm, and houseplants flowered despite the cold and dark. We often talked all night.  He peed off the porch.  I slunk around the back of the house in my boots and jeans and flannel shirt and aimed as best I could into the snow.  We walked our dogs together.  We went skinny dipping in the small ponds in our town, and in the bright enthusiasm of youth and idealistic fervor, tried to change the world by changing our corner of it.  We started a restaurant, a day care center, a political party.  We talked endlessly, read deeply, stalked wild mushrooms and owls in the forest, baked bread, argued about just about everything, gardened, complained, challenged each other, grew up.  I felt safe with him, always.

His letters from South and Central America were long, insightful, silly, and written in beautiful calligraphy.  His house and garden in New Jersey were messy, crammed full of oddities he’d picked up from great distances and around the corner.  The books he wrote—The Owl Papers; Bird of Life, Bird of Death; Sacred Horses; Torrid Zone; Footsteps in the Jungle—opened up my world, and I was thrilled that he chose to rest in my company between his voyages.

In our one, and only, attempt at becoming lovers, we ended up laughing so hard we simply gave up—makes sense, in hindsight—we had a different kind of chemistry.  I loved to look at him and to hear him talk—of course I did, look at that face!  He’d read Mark Twain to me at night until I fell asleep, every time he came to visit. His annual calendars of adages and proverbs were the best gifts ever.  This is the one from his last year on this earth.2008

I still talk to him when something great or funny or perplexing happens.  When I get lonely for his voice, I read his letters.  Grief has no timetable, and love endures. Here’s to friendship.  Hang on to the people who get you and let them know that you love them.

Thanks, Jonathan. Without you I wouldn’t be who I am, or have all those 19th century Russian novels under my belt, or know how to make a mushroom print, or have the skills to be a lifelong friend. I miss you, wherever you are in that mysterious space/time/matter continuum.  And I still want that hat.

Hat man


The Urban Garden

The Urban Garden

Winter is officially over! It feels good to have our hands in the soil and faces to the sun. We are experimenting with these cool mobile planters. Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs are the subjects and we will track the progress and (we hope) success.