One of the greatest perks of working in book publishing is the longstanding practice of “Summer Friday”: Monday through Thursday, working hours are extended until 5:45, and on Friday quitting time is at 1:00. Anyone who does the math discovers that it’s a bargain in favor of the employees—especially since many of them work until 5:45 pretty routinely anyway. It sort of makes up for the low pay in the early years of one’s career, a reminder of the genteel business book publishing used to be, in the decades before anyone expected to actually make a substantial profit.
I haven’t had to think about summer Fridays in three years, since I left my cushy (though high-pressure) job. But for the last two months I’ve been freelancing full-time for a book publisher, in their offices, so I’ve been living by their rules. Today I stepped out of the office and into the mid-afternoon sun, grateful that the humidity and heat that had been so oppressive just a few days ago has finally broken. I’ll go to the Farmer’s Market on my way home, I thought. The Friday market in Union Square, although smaller than the Saturday one, would be nearly jumping—the variety isn’t what it will be in just a few weeks, but I was counting on finding something fun, something different, something interesting. And I did.
Sugar snap peas were everywhere—I counted at least four different farmers selling them, all with signs encouraging shoppers to sample their harvest. I could’ve made a meal just walking from stand to stand, munching on those sweet, crunchy, juicy pods. I’ve never cooked with them before, but lord knows I’ve eaten enough in restaurants to know how good they can be. I picked up a pound, a quart of small, glossy strawberries, and a bunch of mint. At the Whole Foods across the street, I bought a small hunk of an interesting-looking black pepper pecorino and some Marcona almonds, then hopped on the L train.
My salad needed one more item, one more texture, to make it a home run. Luckily, I had an English cucumber in the fridge. The mild, lightly sweet flavor would play nicely off the stronger, more sugary stuff, and the brisk crispness would give the dish an extra bounce. For a dressing, I combined lemon juice, rice vinegar, hazelnut oil, and a pinch each of sugar and cayenne—the salt and pepper is in the cheese, so if you’re not using it do add a little here.
This is a pretty fantabulous salad, if I do say so myself.
Weight Watchers readers: According to the recipe builder on their site, this comes out to 8 points for half the recipe—but it’s not perfect since they don’t have all the ingredients in their database. I substituted the closest things I could find.
“Summer Friday” Salad
Serves 2 if you’re not eating much else, or 4 as a side/app
1 pound sugar snap peas, ends snipped off & strings removed
½ cup strawberries, quartered
4” length of English cucumber, halved and sliced ¼” thick
15-20 Marcona almonds
8 mint leaves, torn
Juice of ½ lemon
1 ½ T. rice vinegar
2 T. hazelnut oil
Pinch each cayenne and sugar
1/3 cup Pecorino Pepato, shaved
While you’re trimming the peas, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. Blanch the peas for 1 minute, then remove to the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well.
Put the peas, the strawberries, the cucumber, the almonds, and the mint in a large bowl and toss gently to combine.
Combine the lemon juice, the rice vinegar, the hazelnut oil, and the seasoning. [I put it all in a small Rubbermaid container and shake vigorously.] Pour it over the salad, toss to combine, and scatter the cheese on top.