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White Bean and Heirloom Tomatoes with Summer Pea Shoots

Posted Aug 23 2012 2:21pm
Today I have this feeling inside, you may call it nostalgia, sadness, or content. I haven't yet decided yet. I find myself day-dreaming about family and friends, the place I once called home. My cousin just recently got engaged (congratulation April and Tyler!). There will be many events to follow, showers, parties, and preparation. In a few weeks, my aunt is hosting an engagement party, which I had to sadly decline due to feasibility and practicality. Most of the time, I am able to forget that people are going about their lives, getting on with things. My nephew, now starting to talk, my sister buying a new house. These are important things. Things are happening without me, and sometimes it makes me a bit sad.

While thinking about my family and home, I started to wonder about childhood friends. One girl in particular. She was my first real friend. We spent the summer riding our bikes, building forts, playing in the trees. Her father had built a smoke house under a hill in the front yard, that seemed too eerie. I used to imagine that it was a troll cave, making sure to never get too close. Her father was a special man. He used to take us into town in his small beat-up car, for bonkers, fun-dip, and runts. His car had a giant hole in the floor of the passenger side, and on special days, he would drive in circle and we would look at the pavement getting terribly dizzy. Her father had a few other specialties; smoked meat, pickles, beats, and wine. Each summer he would grow the most immaculate garden, with some of the best tomatoes I have ever tasted. How I miss those days and that girl.  I'm not sure how our friendship ended, drifted away, but it did, and often leaving me with an empty feeling. Maybe one day we will reconnect, but we are likely far different people than we once were. 
I am certain that my taste buds will never forget those tomatoes, leaving such a favorable impression in my mind. My favorite fruit as a child (or what I stubbornly like to call a vegetable), perfectly indulged straight from the garden, sliced into four, and sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Though, If I had of been born into an avocado era, it probably would have been the later. Fresh from the tree, sliced into halves, with a little salt and pepper, possibly mashed on a slice of fresh baguette. As I sit here, my mouth begins salivating to the idea. I am as giddy as a school child right now, fresh local tomatoes in abundance. I wish it were this season all year round, tomatoes tasting as they should. During the summer months I don't have to think about where my tomatoes come from, because I buy them straight from the man at the farmers market who planted them himself. I walk into my local grocery store, and the well identifiable sign says Washington State, and I sigh with relief. There is something charming about buying produce from the hands that planted and nurtured the seed to your table. 

With all these tomatoes taking up valuable counter space, I thought it wise to turn them into something special. A fresh summer salad, paired with my other favorite - the avocado. If you've been around for a while, you'll know that I love to pair avocados and tomatoes. I added a few white beans for some hardiness and protein. A shallot or two, sliced every so finely, always bringing out some extraordinary flavors from the tomatoes. I made certain to buy the avocado a little ripe, not too hard though. I wanted it to retain its shape when sliced, and not become soggy when moistened with dressing. The dressing is a hodge-podge of my favorite ingredients. My standard go-tos' when making a dressing. A gorgeous olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, dijon, honey, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. I prefer to shake my dressing in a mason jar, versus whizzing it in the food processor. I feel as though the later method emulsifies the dressing way past my desire, resulting in a creamier thick version which has its own place. A few days back, I came across some pea shoots at the market. Tempted by their rarity and cute nature, I decided to incorporate them into this salad. Although, I do realize that they may not be readily available in other parts of the world, a simple substitution for arugula or fresh basil will work just fine.  
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