as the wind blows

a moment in time

Categories: Salads and Dressings, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Lunch, Posted on August 16, 2020 by Sandy Bergsten

Last week in Chicago was one for the books. My husband had meetings out of town, and I was secretly very excited to be alone for the first time since February. As luck would have it my best friend’s husband was also going to be away. We were looking forward to going for long walks, running fun errands in the city (she’s a fellow foodie who knows all the best spots) and even venturing out for some al fresco dining.

Monday, we woke to the heartbreaking news of the senseless looting and destruction in downtown Chicago. They closed the major thoroughfares and raised the bridges. The local news ran special reports all day long. The surreal images looked like something out of a batman movie. I sat transfixed in front of the tv, calling and texting my friend. Then around noon they began showing severe weather warnings. There was a line of storms racing across Iowa.

One of my favorite things is watching thunderstorms. I find the lightening beautiful and the thunderclaps exhilarating. I thought the view of the lake with the storm coming in from our 16th floor apartment would be a welcome distraction from the distress of the day. I watched the radar as the storm careened toward Chicago. It began to look really alarming. So being the pragmatic person I am, I fed my Norwich terrier an early dinner and took him for a walk. As we made our way around the block the skies began to darken. Willie and I sprinted for our building. Up in our apartment the tops of the trees began to sway, and the windows started to rattle. Driving rain pelted from every direction. For the second time that day I was transfixed by a troubling view, this time it was outside my very window. I heard a crack and a massive tree limb flew past the 16th floor. The entire apartment began to shake. And then huge boards and shingles spiraled outside my window. I picked up my dog and started to cry. I felt as if I was in an urban Wizard of Oz. I quickly grabbed a pair of sturdy shoes to change into in case my windows broke and shut myself and my dog into an interior cedar closet. I made tearful calls to my husband and to my friend. It was seriously terrifying. 

When the shaking finally stopped, I opened the door a crack and saw the skies lighten. I took a deep breath and ventured out. Miraculously all of my windows were intact. I finally put my dog down. I called my husband to let him know I was ok. Then I called my friend to see how she fared. Thankfully she too had weathered the storm but had lost power.

I sat on my bed trying to catch my breath. Shaken, I turned the channel on the tv from the endless news feed to the Food Network. And just like Glinda the Good Witch from the East, there was Ina Garten making this beautiful tomato, mozzarella and bread salad. For what felt like the first time that day I exhaled. Willie, whose breed is the cousin to the Cairn (Toto), seemed to sigh with relief as well, probably because I wasn’t squeezing the stuffing out of him any more in a closet!

I resolved to set my mind on something positive that I could control and set off to make Ina’s tuscan tomato and bread salad.

Begin with a quarter pound of sweet cherry tomatoes. Halve them through the stem.

Then halve a quarter pound of ciliegine mozzarella (the ones that are small balls packed in water). 

Place both in a large bowl.

Julienne five large fresh basil leaves.

Make a simple vinaigrette out of a small minced clove garlic, a quarter teaspoon Dijon mustard, one tablespoon good red wine vinegar, two tablespoons high-quality olive oil, a big pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. 

Whisk together in a glass measuring cup. And set aside.

Cut the crusts off two to three slices of sourdough bread (about two ounces). 

Cut into ¾-inch cubes.

Heat two and a half tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sauté pan until hot but not smoking. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with a quarter teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. 

Sauté over medium to medium-high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the bread is evenly browned and crisp. 

Add the warm bread to the tomatoes and mozzarella.

Add enough of the vinaigrette to moisten all of the ingredients. 

Add the basil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss carefully, adding more vinaigrette if necessary. Serve at room temperature.

Needless to say, my week “alone” wasn’t what I envisioned. Below are some images from the storm.

The radar. Turns out it was something meteorologists call a derecho

The roof on the building next door blowing off made the local news.

Willie and I in the closet.

The bridges up along the Chicago River to deter future looters from coming into downtown.

And here’s my friend the next day as we walked by the myriad of uprooted trees in the park across the street from my building. Please stay safe everyone and may we all strive to remain grounded as we encounter whatever blows our way.


August 20, 2020

HOLY smokes!!!! What a siege!!!! You are a brave lady. I’m so grateful you and Willie are OK!!! I cannot imagine the terror..... I had forgotten about this salad. Perfect for my garden largesse now! Thank you! And BTW your chicken Caesar was da bom!!!!! What a great dressing recipe and the chicken shortcut was perfect for company. Thank you Heinen’s for wonderful deli. And thank you, Sandy, for always stimulating our senses!!! In addition to super recipes your food photography is wonderful!!!!


August 19, 2020

WOW! so glad you are OK! My sister lived in Winnetka for 30 years so I have had many trips to downtown Chicago. So glad you "weathered the storm". Needed a salad recipe for a minimized family gathering (covid) and will use this salad you sent. Besides you, I think Ina is the best. So easy going! Miss GCA activity and wonder if it will ever resume. These are trying times. Stay safe and take care of the puppy too. Best Cathy Miller

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