My friend is waiting for me, looking into a gift shop window. We kiss each other’s cheeks and silently admire the flourishing ivy growing in boxes in front of the teahouse. In the somber passage where the light always falls as if we are in a forest, the vines quietly and thoughtfully climb. Before we enter the teahouse, we unwrap our scarves together and check to see through the window that our regular table is ready. The handle pulls down, the door pushes in, and a bell quietly chimes. The lady who sits at the desk in the afternoons waits for us to shed our outdoor clothing, ushers us to our seats, and we are ready. I glance through the stone arched door with the curtain in the back and see a quiet movement against the creamy yellow cabinets of the kitchen. This place is not really a place for small talk. It is a place where we must discuss. Something in the stones demands it. Our salad and dessert will be followed by pot after pot of hot nourishing tea.
Salade de Chèvre Chaud avec sa Vinaigrette au Poivre Vert
Take a flavorful chèvre like the Picodon or Pélardon, and slice it into 6 wedges. Split each of the wedges in half along the center. Choose a quarter of a good round loaf of substantial bread, like Richard’s pain ligerien, pain de campagne, or a pain au noix. Slice it into flat triangles and toast the bread triangles briefly in the oven to make them crisp but not too brown. Wash & dry your lettuce or mixed greens, herbs of your choosing, wedge some garden tomatoes, thinly slice an onion, peel a shallot, and crack 8 walnuts. Make a sauce vinaigrette with the blender using one whole shallot, a rounded teaspoon of brined green peppercorns, ½ a teaspoon of salt, olive sunflower and walnut oil, and plain simple cider vinegar to taste. Place the wedges of cheese on the toast with the crust of the cheese facing up. Put them in the hot oven to slightly melt and brown the cheese. Arrange the salad ingredients in a bowl. Give the salad a first drizzle of vinaigrette. When the cheese is adequately soft on the toasts, place them on the salad, drizzle again with vinaigrette plus a light dusting of sea salt or fleur de sel, and serve.
If you have any cheese toasts leftover, offer them to your companion with a little more green peppercorn vinaigrette on top as a gesture of friendship.