Despite the many, many residences I have occupied throughout my life, I’ve never really had to worry about keys. My door is open to friends, family, and all— not just figuratively. But Dorthy isn’t in Kansas anymore, and in my short time here in Switzerland I have found myself locked out of our apartment building not once, not twice, but three times already. Twice I was lucky enough to catch the door as someone left the building, but on one cold Saturday afternoon while Michael was at the Pfadiheim, I had no such luck. Stuck outside without a cellphone, I decided to try my luck with the neighbours.
There’s a house on our street with a truly lovely garden. Once, Michael remarked to the two women outside how much we enjoyed their garden every time we walked by. Next ensued a lot of chitter-chatter in Swiss-German amongst the three of them which I really couldn’t follow, but at the end of it all we went home with a bag filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, and an assortment of sweet and spicy peppers straight from the garden of this mother-daughter duo!
So a week later, when I was locked outside, it’s this house that I decided to try my luck with. I explained to the elderly woman, in my horribly broken, beginner’s German, that “Ich wohne mit mein Freund aber er ist nicht dort, und ich habe kein Schlüssel, und bitte, kann ich deine Telefone brauchen zu mein Freund anrufen?” Somehow, she understood my plight, and offered me her phone… just one problem— I didn’t have Michael’s number (way to go, Aditi). So we went on over to her daughter’s flat who, after letting me use her computer to look up Michael’s number and call him, gave me directions to the Pfadiheim (in English thank god). Shocked when I said I would walk allll the way across the city instead of just taking the bus (“I can give you money for the ticket”), she instead gave me a map. Worried that I might get lost (not without reason I suppose) she insisted that I take her cellphone with me so that I could call Michael if need be. “Its OK, I trust you” she said with a smile as she put the phone in my hand.
Once I had finally found Michael, hung out on a giant hammock in the middle of the woods with half a dozen little boys singing the Spiderman song, and came back with him (and the keys!) to return our neighbour’s phone, she once again sent us home with another bag full of tomatoes and peppers fresh from her garden! After all this Ramayana, I can only think of one way to honor these tomatoes and the lovely, lovely women who grew them: Insalata Caprese.
It might just be the easiest thing ever to make, and the quickest too. Just alternate slices of tomato & mozzarella, garnish with fresh basil, and drizzle generously with dressing. Fin! But don’t let its simplicity fool you— it can easily be the tastiest salad ever too. The key is in the tomatoes. It’s perfect for all those home-grown or heirloom tomatoes that are fresh, local, and extra flavorful. Take the 2 extra minutes to make your own dressing. It adds just enough to keep it from being boring but still lets the flavor of the tomatoes shine through.
Start with a basic, classic Italian dressing: mix 1 part aceto balsamico, 2 parts olive oil, and pressed garlic, a pinch of salt, freshly ground pepper & some dijon mustard to taste. You can always add ingredients that inspire you or suite your tastes. For example— dried herbs, garlic powder, pesto, or just more garlic! (we’re big fans of that one) Stir, taste, and adjust until you’re satisfied. Keep in mind as you’re adjusting that the dressing can totally be a bit strong because the tomato and mozzarella are both neutralizing. Oh! And don’t forget, you can use this dressing for any salad. So if you end up making too much, just store it in the fridge for your next salad.
Buon Appetito and make sure you show some love to your own lovely (or locked out) neighbours!