Saturday, December 08, 2007

Chilly Greens

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
1 grapefruit
a shower of Parmesan shavings
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt
pepper

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.


8 comments:

Terry B said...

Your lovely description of your mountains [and I love your proprietary "our"] remind me of our glorious recent California trip. The dressing for this salad sounds so fresh and lively. About how much grapefruit juice do you think it has in it?

Lucy said...

Sharp, salty and creamy - what a gorgeous salad.

'the wild in the urban'. Just lovely. I'd love to hear more about your environmental group.

Susan Carrier said...

The Eaton Canyon walk sounded lovely.

As a current resident of Altadena and a former resident of West Virgina, I must say that I'm surprised that "our" mountains reminded someone of the rolling, green hills of West Virginia. Perhaps they evoke the same emotional feelings, even though they look nothing alike.

I'm growing both grapefruit and avocados in our back yard. I'll have to try this salad.

Christina said...

Terry B: I made it again tonight and paid close attention to the amount of juice the grapefruit gave off while I separated the sections. I used a small (about 2" diameter) grapefruit and it released a scant two tablespoons of juice. When I usually make the salad, I use larger fruit that release a lot more juice. I'm flexible about how much olive oil (and other ingredients) I use depending on how much juice I get, and it is quite possible with this particular dressing to get more than you need. I hope that answers your question.

Lucy: Thanks. The Environmental Club is a group that I advise at my school. We run a recycling program on campus, participate in environmental education and service projects, and fundraise to donate a substantial check to an environmentally-oriented charity at the end of the year. It's a lot of fun to work with these kids.

Susan Carrier: Thank you so much for stopping by my site. I've heard just about every comparison imaginable when it comes to these local mountains. I think, since so many of the students I work with come to Southern California from elsewhere, that you're right on the money when you say that these mountains evoke similar emotional responses to other mountains they know. To me, the mountains provide a constant frame to my point of view, and I find myself recognizing that frame in many other parts of the world bordered by mountains.

Wendy said...

Wow! Your garden is amazing. The joys of living in California. I'm terribly envious. :)
Beautiful photos.

ann said...

I love the mix of olives and avocados! the guy that makes my lunch salads sometimes looks at me funny when I order them together, but I don't care. Yummy's yummy! What a nice hike you guys had, I'm kinda jealous. It's getting seriously cold here.

The Passionate Palate said...

That salad looks like exactly what I want for dinner!

If you have any extra fava beans come Spring, I'll drive to Pasadena for them! ;-)

Christina said...

Wendy: When you post you're fall pictures, I'm jealous of you in Scotland. Each place has its own splendor.

Ann: I think olives and avocados are a perfect match--the rich fattiness of avocado seems extra wonderful when set against the briny tang of an olive. They're combined all the time in Mexican cuisine.

Passionate Palate: I'll let you know how they produce. So far, no beans have begun to form, but if I get a good crop, I'll certainly share!