Okay, I had a weak moment. The sun was shining, roads were beginning to dry up from our last snow in advance of the next one. The truck was cosy and sun-warmed. I was so content that I turned on the radio. What was I thinking? Every 4 years, as soon as the word Iowa creeps into the daily vocabulary, I distance myself from all radio and television news because I just cannot stand the ceaseless flogging of the same drivel. And please don’t tell me how much information I am missing. I know exactly what I’m missing, and it isn’t information. So it was just my luck that this afternoon up popped a conversation on NPR about Super PACs and the political process and the possibility of corruption. Possibility. The moderator actually used that word. The possibility that corruption is in bed with politics – now THERE’S a shocker! Oh, and Paula Deen takes her Type 2 Diabetes public! What! A! Day! That last few are actually a quote. It’s what I hollered at the radio before I punched the Off button. Maybe I’ll get lucky and break it some day.
I was stopping on my way home to pick some fennel for a salad I had in mind, given all our sun. I’d been thinking of just a few simple ingredients oriented around bright, beautiful citrus. Tender, colorful Cara cara oranges; tart Kalamata olives, and some crisp, sweet fennel. I went to 2 stores, which is my limit before I start getting seriously irritated (and remember, the radio had already gotten on my bad side). Not so much as a frond in sight. So I stood some distance from the chilled produce, arms crossed, concentrated a frown, and just scanned back and forth to see what might do instead. One of the produce guys walked (quickly) past, head down, holding me in the corner of his eye just in case produce wasn’t what I had in mind. My irritation wasn’t with him any more than it was with the radio. The former has to do with living in produce-challenged Montana in winter; as for the latter, well, enough said. Finally I squinted at the cabbages, and actually said out loud, “Oh, that’s it!” when I spied a frilly head of tender Napa cabbage.
So here is an honestly uncomplicated salad to perhaps take the edge off these complicated times. It’s obviously going to be part of my dinner tonight. It’s also a great, uh, candidate for a buffet. It holds up perfectly over time. It will never let you down, never pretend to be something it isn’t.
2 cara cara oranges, peeled and suprême (see Jan. 13 post, Luck Times 3)
1/2 cup kalamata olives, drained, halved
1/2 head Napa cabbage, finely shredded
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (use a good Italian one if you can)
Juice of half a lemon (Meyer, if possible)
1/4 cup feta cheese, roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 or 3 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
Sea or kosher salt and pepper to taste
You’ll get the best blend on the dressing if you use a food processor or a blender. The cheese purées into a creamy emulsion with the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. And the kiss of mint, oh my! If you can’t get Meyer lemons, by all means use an ordinary lemon, but add 1/2 teaspoon or so of honey because Meyer lemons have a touch of sweetness to them. Purée everything but the salt and pepper, then season to taste.
Place all the salad ingredients in a salad bowl or large mixing bowl. Add dressing and gently toss. Serve on plates with some crusty bread to clean up all the drippings left behind.