The bittersweet side of the weekend was that I had to say goodbye to my man for a month. Pete's alpine climbing excursions have become common enough that you would think I would be used to saying goodbye. But while it gets easier, it is never easy and I was grateful that after saying goodbye to him in my dear friend Maggie's apartment I got to turn around and fall into a long, tight hug, and the same steady shoulder I have leaned upon, literally and figuratively, since I was 15 years old. After the bender of a weekend and my rattled nerves at sending my love into the icy mountains of Patagonia, I wanted something comforting and nourishing and simple. Salad. I know. It doesn't seem like comfort food but it was. It was as green as a salad can get, (as green as this one, also written about as a comfort food of sorts), and packed with all the things I had leeched out of my body with the weekend's festivities. The salad in and of itself is nourishing and nutritionally pious, no question about it. But the most restorative, nourishing part about it was making it and eating it with Maggie, weaving in and out of conversations covering every aspect of our lives, present, past and future.
I used half of the ingredients we bought and left the other half in Maggie's fridge. When I came home to California, to my empty house, I recreated the dish. While I was throwing it together I got a text from Maggie, "How do I slice this fennel?" I sent her the answer and sat down with my own green bowl, feeling suddenly a little less lonely, knowing that sturdy shoulder was only a text message away.
|Slice the bulb in half...|
|...and then in half again.|
Maggie's Salad (serves 2 for dinner)
Two big handfuls of spinach (about 2 cups)
1/2 a small bulb of fennel
2-3 stalks of celery
a handful of basil leaves
half a small head of broccoli
for the vinaigrette
1/2 t raw honey
1/2 t dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup good, green tasting extra virgin olive oil
Wash the spinach well by submerging it in a bowl of water and lifting the leaves out so the grit settles in the bottom of the bowl. Spin dry and chop roughly.
Trim the fronds from the fennel (you can add some into the salad if you like), and slice the bulb vertically in half, and then in half again. Slice thinly.
Slice the celery the same thinness as the fennel pieces. I cut mine on the diagonal.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Using a paring knife, slice the flesh three or four times, top to bottom, and then five or six times side to side, making a grid. Using a large spoon, scoop and scrape the avocado out of the skin. Repeat with the other half.
Slice the broccoli head in half, top to bottom and chop the half you are using, roughly, into pieces around the same size as the rest of the veggies.
Stack the basil leaves on top of one another and roll them up like a cigar. Using a good sharp knife (a dull one will bruise it) slice the cigar in thin strips.
Put all the salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl whisk the honey, mustard, lemon juice and salt together until the ingredients are well integrated and there are no lumps of honey left. Slowly, in a stead stream, whisk the olive oil in. Taste and adjust the acid/salt/sweetness as needed.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently until everything is nicely coated but not drenched. You may not need all the dressing in which case you can store the remainder in a jar at room temperature for a week.
Share with someone you love!