I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how fortunate I am living this sweet, simple, happy life here in Kingston. I love this place. The shabby-chic-ness of it. The history. The old stone buildings. The massive waterways. The proximity to other places – Montreal, Ottawa, the Adirondacks – and yes, Toronto. And better yet, how fast I can leave everything behind and be in the middle of nowhere.
I love how livable it is. How I can bicycle to my branch library which just happens to be housed in one of those magnificent old limestone buildings. And then, on the way home, how I can drop into my local grocery store, park my bike in the racks, and buy a kale plant in the pop-up garden centre. I ride home along paths hemmed with wildflowers, passing the community gardens as I go. I love my walking trail, my friends and family here, my small but adorable house, and my garden full of herbs and rhubarb and garlic and arugula. And most of all, I love that my two lovely daughters, live within minutes of me. Did I mention them? Huge big loves of my life…
I didn’t really know how my life would enfold. I didn’t have much of a plan. I got married as an undergraduate and after we finished university we moved to Australia and then went back and forth for a very long time. We arrived in Australia with one baby and came back to Canada with a second. Then we moved our little family twice more across the Pacific Ocean and twice more back to Canada. I was busy working, being a mother, travelling, moving.
I had vague dreams of being a writer. I still have those dreams. And they still seem far too lofty. We moved so often that it was hard to imagine a forever home, or any kind of pattern to my life, let alone a life so perfect. So picturesque. Of course, I fell in love with all kinds of places along the way – bits of Yorkshire; all of France; New Zealand; Whidbey Island, Washington; Ashburton, Australia; Tasmania; the Sunshine Coast of Queensland; Crescent Beach in Vancouver; Salt Spring Island – I could definitely have lived there but for the small matter of earning an income. But Kingston is the first place that I’ve lived that feels so perfectly suited to me. Such a happy fit. I wish everyone could live like this – could be so lucky.
I’ll have to read this again come winter, when I might be slightly less than deliriously happy bordering on cranky. But for now – I am that happy and I am that thankful. And in my kitchen, I’m serving up summer. This recipe is adapted from one in Molly Wizenberg’s beautiful book, A Homemade Life. Thank you Molly – for your book and your blog, Orangette. And for this recipe too. I like the combination of slightly bitter arugula with the sweet cherries. I cut the arugula straight from my garden. And right now while cherries are in season – I’m eating as many as I can.
This salad is substantial enough to serve solo for lunch or dinner. And if you feel like tampering with it – there are endless variations – add nuts, switch out the cherries with nectarines or grapes. Use feta instead of chèvre or blue cheese. Add chopped cooked bacon… etc.
A summer salad of cherries, arugula, and chèvre
- half a baguette – day old is perfect
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- flaked sea salt to taste
- a cup or two of ripe Bing or other dark cherries, at room temperature, washed and halved
- a ripe avocado
- 4-6 cups of arugula, washed and dried
- 1/4 each cup crumbled chevre and blue cheese (or all chèvre or feta..)
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Rip, do not cut, the 1/2 baguette into bite-sized chunks. Toss the bread in olive oil. Spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned and toss the bread so that the browned sides are up. Turn the oven off and let the bread sit in the oven for another 5-6 minutes until browned and crisped.
- While the bread is crisping up, cut and pit the cherries and peel and slice the avocado. In a small bowl take about half the cherries and crush gently with a fork to release the juices.
- Place the cubed bread (warm is fine) in a large bowl and toss with the arugula. Add the cherries and avocado.
- Mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and maple syrup and pour over salad. Toss gently. Top with cheese and serve.