Salad Improvisations

One good thing (of many) about working from home once classes are over:

  • as I’m grading papers, I can putter back and forth to the kitchen, planning my lunch.

One good thing about living in an area where going out to buy a box of sushi isn’t an easy cop-out, as the nearest decent sushi is 10 blocks away:

  • it’s likely I’ll make a salad.

One good thing about snow and cold:

  • I’m more inclined to invent a salad from things that are already in my house.  Maybe it’s the perfect day for kale and feta, but I don’t have any, and I don’t feel like putting on six layers of clothing and knee-high boots to go spend money on some.  I therefore have to use my imagination.

Today’s salad happened in a few stages.  I have spinach.  I was saving it for dinner, but I can appropriate a couple of handfuls. I also have toasted pecans.  So already, I can’t really go wrong.

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When it comes to protein, my first inclination is to reach for a can of chick peas, but chick peas have become a bit of a crutch for me.  I tend to forget about eggs.  A poached egg is the perfect accompaniment to a salad.  Soft-boiled is easier (if you are fine with the fact that, 7 times out of 10, it’s hard-boiled) but poached makes a salad rich and runny.

So I rinsed the spinach and placed the egg on the counter to warm up, but then what?  Something was missing.  I had no roasted red peppers or sundried tomatoes or sprouts or green beans.  What goes well with spinach in a winter salad?

Aha.  Citrus.

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Ideally, if you’re going to make a citrus salad, the fruit should be good.  I had to work with what I had, and the orange and clementine were dry and pale and full of flabby seeds.  The grapefruit was perfect.  I supremed them carefully and left them to sit in a vinagrette for a couple of hours.  (I felt they needed some spice, so I took the dressing from the Honey and Harissa Farro Salad in my new favourite cookbook.  I used white wine vinegar instead of lemon juice, as I felt things were already quite citrussy enough.)

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I was very careful with the egg and it came out perfectly.  The dressing thinned a lot with the juice from the citrus, so I drained the fruit and then added more dressing directly to the spinach.

The outcome: overall, delicious, but needs tweaking.

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The combination of the warm, runny egg and the cold citrus was interesting but not entirely convincing.  The dressing also needs balancing, maybe with a bit of garlic and some additional oil to counteract all the juices going on.  However, the whole thing made a light and satisfying lunch.

What would make it better?  Apples!  No citrus next time.

Most importantly, I spent my morning making a thing, which I was then able to eat.  Any day when I do that feels like a day well spent.

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