The daughter and I sandwiched some time in Aix en Provence this summer in between Bologna and Paris. It's one of our very favorite places. It's also the birthplace of Paul Cézanne, a fact that is truly inescapable given the myriad of those round-cornered brass markers imbedded in sidewalks along the Cours Mirabeau and its environs. They tell you that you're following in his footsteps. They'll lead you to places of significance to him - his studio, his birthplace, shops selling cheesy reproductions.
Well, of a cool-ish Sunday afternoon, we decided to follow them to the house where he was born, as it was in a part of town we hadn't explored yet. Many businesses are wonderfully closed on Sunday, so the streets and sidewalks off the tourist paths were nearly empty, really a beautiful sensation. We followed, we turned corners, we went up a hill, and finally came to a lovely yellow building on which was mounted a plaque announcing that it was indeed his birthplace. Was it open to the public? Mais, non. Now it's a day care center.
Wandering back along our path, we stopped for lunch at a little place - pizzas and this stopped-us-in-our tracks salad. The very simple ingredients and their avocado vinaigrette took our breath away. I took out my journal and together we deconstructed it. After we returned home, the daughter called me to double-check the ingredients; it was the first thing she made. Fast and simple? Mais, oui. Great flavors and textures? Fantastiques! —boulangere
corn kernels, fresh or frozen (thawed of course)
red onion, fine dice
white wine vinegar
extra-virgin olive oil
Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
You can ribbon the carrots on a mandoline, but think rustic and simple works best sometimes, so I just use a peeler. Hold each peeled carrot at the halfway point lengthwise. Begin shaving off half-carrot-length ribbons, holding the carrot in place until you get down to the core. You just want the sweet part of the carrot here. Turn it, shave it down to the core again in beautiful, wide ribbons. Repeat until you've gone all the way around. Flip it so you're holding the shaved core, and do the same with the other end. Feed the cores to your chickens, or send them to thirschfeld for his.
Add the corn. Add the red onion. You can also use an equal amount of scallions instead.
To make the avocado vinaigrette, you can use a food processor or a mini chop to purée the ingredients, or you can just mash the avocado with a fork on a cutting board and whisk everything together. I like the fork-board-whisk method. Season it to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the dressing to the salad. Add the parsley. Toss to blend with a pair of tongs. If it seems a bit sticky, add a bit more some olive oil. Taste, and adjust the salt and pepper of necessary. This is one of the few things to which I don't add a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes. The original didn't contain them, and every time I taste this, it takes me back to a lovely French afternoon with the daughter.
Divide between plates with some tongs, then with a spatula scrape out every last drop of the dressing. Raise a toast to Cézanne. And some very lucky children.