Sarah Dessen and found family

Sarah Dessen books are often about the family we find for ourselves outside of our immediate family. The Rest of the Story is no different – Emma Saylor, known as Emma in town, ends up spending the summer with her disgraced mother’s family one summer. There, they know her as Saylor, and she hasn’t been there since she was four years old.

Emma, of course, grows as a person and also, of course, finds a boy. But the romance storyline isn’t as strong as it’s been in her previous books. This one really is more about Saylor’s development into a person whose life is defined by more than just her mother’s screw-ups. Ironic, then, that visiting her mother’s family is what finally allows her to develop beyond being defined by “try as hard as you can to not turn into your mother.”

The Rest of the Story isn’t as strong as some of Dessen’s previous books but it was still enjoyable and I’m glad I read it.

Salad Niçoise is yummy

I ate a LOT of salad niçoise in Europe, both in Switzerland and France. It seems to be having something of a moment (plus, it also feels very summery to me, salad for dinner). I love the veggie-protein mix, and it’s easy to make vegetarian. When there was a skeleton recipe in the latest Bon Appetit, it seemed like a godsend.

Any Way Niçoise
6-8 servings; Switch this up to suit your preferences, but try to always include a mix of cooked and raw veggies for the best textures.

0.75c extra-virgin olive oil
0.25c fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon, in my world)
2T dijon mustard
1t honey
1t each salt + pepper
6 large eggs
1lb green beans, trimmed; asparagus, trimmed; and/or small waxy potatoes, halved or quartered
4c halved or sliced radishes, cucumbers, fennel, and/or tomatoes
3c shredded rotisserie chicken, oil packed tuna, cooked salmon or steak, cooked lentils, or canned white beans or chickpeas
olives, capers, peperoncini, pickles, or other pickled-briny ingredients

Whisk oil, lemon juice, mustard, honey, pepper and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add eggs and cook for seven minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water (keep pot over high heat). Peel eggs after ~5 minutes.

Meanwhile add green beans, asparagus, or potatoes to the same pot of boiling water and cook until just tender (cook each vegetable separately, in sequence), 2-4 minutes for green beans & asparagus, 10-15 minutes for potatoes. Transfer to bowl of ice water; let sit until cold, about 3 minutes. Remove, gently pat dry.

To serve, slice eggs in half & arrange on platter with cooked & raw veggies and protein. Top with pickled-briny ingredients, sprinkle with salt, and drizzle dressing over the top.

(You can cook the eggs and veggies up to 2 days ahead of time.)

Homemade Tomato Salsa

a bowl of homemade tomato salsa, with tomatoes, onions, jalapeño, and cilantro.

You know what tastes like summertime? Fresh tomatoes from the farmers’ market. The best way I know to use some of them up is homemade salsa. It’s easy to make and we have been known to go through a batch a week.

Homemade tomato salsa

12 small-ish tomatoes (I like early girl, Roma will do in a pinch)
1 onion, quartered
1 jalapeño, remove seeds if you don’t like it spicy
2 cloves of garlic
juice from 0.5 lemon
1T-ish of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
cilantro to taste

Core the tomatoes, put them, the onion, the jalapeño, and the garlic in your food processor. Run it until everything is as pureed as you like it. move to bowl. Add the lemon juice and seasoning salt. Mix. Chop about 2T of cilantro. Taste, adjusting seasoning to your liking. Once satisfied, let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Salsa, like soup, tastes better when the flavors have a chance to blend.