The mountain's breath bit with its icicle teeth at our rosy checks as we hiked this morning. After a brief service project planting trees for the City of Pasadena, my Environmental Club members and I hiked up and into Eaton Canyon.
Two members of the club had never been hiking before, and another told me that the mountains looked like her home in the Philippines that she had left a few years ago. Our local chameleon mountains seem to remind everyone of places they love; I've heard comparisons to Hawaii, to West Virginia, and even to Switzerland.
The water was so cold it hurt to touch. It was cold the way clean mountain water should be. And, like nearly all natural water, it drew us towards it with a force stronger than gravity. Just being near it rinsed the teenage residue of Guitar Hero, World of Warcraft, Cosmo Girl, and reality TV gently away.
The rains that have been filling the canyons and dusting the mountain tops with snow have turned my garden soil into a cold sponge. Luckily, the cold wet soil doesn't seem to impede the growth of the sugar snaps, whose vines are now taller than me, or the favas, whose tuxedo-blossoms class up the little plot.
The cold has knocked leaves off the trees, making the wild in the urban easier to spot.
Although the cold is bracing, it never seems to stop the local avocados from fruiting (in fact, it seems as if there is always at least one variety of avocados coming to prime, no matter what season), the citrus from coming on strong, and the lettuce in the garden from sending up silken blistered leaves.
When all these good ingredients come together in December, it is time for one of my favorite salads.
Grapefruit and Avocado Salad
Use whatever salad greens you love to make this salad. Today, I used the buttery Marveille deQuatre Saisons lettuce and Italian parsley because it is what I had--a happy state of being, I tell you. However, I've made this salad with romaine, with arugula, and with spinach, and have been happy each time. It is a bright-flavored, zingy salad, made meal-worthy by the avocado, cheese, and meaty olives.
You will need:
A healthy-sized bunch of salad greens, rinsed and dried
1/2 large avocado or 1 small avocado
10-15 pitted nicoise, preferably marinated in garlic and chili
a shower of Parmesan shavings
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
To make the salad:
Over your salad bowl, cut off the peel off the grapefruit, making sure to cut below the white membrane. Be careful to let the juice that drips off the fruit fall into the salad bowl. Cut each segment out of the fruit by sliding your knife along the edges of each segment. Let the peeled segments fall into your bowl. Once you've finished, gently hold the segments while you drain the juice into a small bowl or jar in which you'll make the dressing.
Peel the avocado and slice thinly into the salad bowl. Toss the olives into the bowl and the salad greens, torn into large pieces, over the other ingredients.
In the small dressing bowl, whisk together the grapefruit juice, the mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. While whisking, drizzle in the oil until the ingredients are fully emulsified.
Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients, and toss gently together with two large folks. Toss the Parmesan over everything. Eat.