Walking here in the city is, to misquote Ralph Waldo Emerson as completely as possible, about the destination, not about the journey. It’s a great place to be a pedestrian, but it helps to be goal oriented about it. And I have to admit I’ve adapted, hook, line and sinker. I cover a lot of sidewalk day-to-day, iPod playing something in my ears that makes me fast and focused, mental route mapped out, watching where I step, navigating other pedestrians and their children, dogs, strollers, granny carts. I’ve caught myself playing sidewalk chicken and doing the classic eye roll/deep disgusted sigh/throw hands up in exasperation combo thing pretty often. I’ll even admit (and I share this from a deeply conflicted mixture of burning-faced shame and adrenaline-fueled exhilaration) that recently, while walking to an appointment in the wintry rain, I tried to start across the street before the car coming the opposite direction had passed in order to time it as closely as I could. When the driver stopped in the middle of the street, rolled down her window and started yelling at me for “being in the middle of the street like an idiot” it took me about half a second to start waving my arms and yelling back. In my defense, everyone I told about it thought I was totally justified, because everyone knows the drivers here are all crazy. I haven’t lost my common courtesy completely – sometimes I deliberately smile at people as I pass. It seems to freak a lot of them out, so win/win for me.
So I’m striding down Washington Street a couple of days ago when I came to a short, hard stop on the pavement, arrested by the scent of hyacinths and freesia. Buckets full of those most fragrant of late winter blossoms were spilling out onto the sidewalk in front of a mini-grocery (I think people call them “bodegas”). Completely distracted from my no doubt urgent errand, I stopped and just took a deep breath and literally inhaled the beauty of the moment.
It reminded me to look up occasionally during these things that seem like something to “get through” – a commute, a north-eastern winter, a tiresome daily task – and actually notice what’s going on around me.
That the sunniest of fruits, citrus, is at its brightest and most abundant and varied in the winter is reason enough to take a little pleasure in the journey. Whether you are in California where the tree are incandescent with Meyer lemons, or you just live close enough to warmer climes to get the influx of Ruby reds, Cara Cara navels, clementines, and Sevilles that glow from the bins lining frigid northern sidewalks, they are like yellow signal lights flashing “slow down, pay attention.”
I’ve made this crunchy, bittersweet winter salad with them several times this year. Like that burst of lime squirted onto hot posole, the fragrance seems to instantly brighten the mood and the cool mixture of coral and jade is a feast for the eyes.
(I’ll just add that there are lots of lovely parks and river-front promenades where a contemplative stroll is not generally frowned upon, as long as you stay out of the jogger’s way.)
Citrus Endive Salad
– 1 ruby red grapefruit
– 1 navel orange
– 1 Cara Cara orange (red navel orange)
– 1 largish head of Belgian endive
– 1/4 medium sweet red onion
– 2 ounces feta, crumbled into rough chunks
Peel and section the grapefruit and oranges. Remember, in this case, the perfect is the enemy of the good, so don’t stress about getting it right the first time.
With a sharp knife, cut the skin off the top and bottom of the fruit.
Slice down the curved sides of the fruit, removing the skin, pith and outer membrane.
Once the skin is gone, you can go back and clean up any pith or membrane that got missed the first time.
Cut each section out from between the white membrane. get as close as you can, but don’t go crazy; you’ll use the leftover juice for the dressing.
Once all the fruit segments are cut out, squeeze the leftover pulp into a cup to get as much juice out as you can. Save 2 tablespoons for the dressing and drink the rest.
Core and separate the leaves on the head of endive. Thinly slice, almost shave the red onion into slivers. Arrange the citrus sections, endive and onion on a platter and tumble the crumbled feta over the top. Drizzle with the citrus vinaigrette and a little of the fig balsamic and serve.
These aren’t the 3/1 proportions of a classic vinaigrette, but a lighter sweeter version.
– 2 tablespoons reserved citrus juice
– 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
– 1/2 teaspoon spicy mustard (may I suggest Figgy Mustard?)
-1 teaspoon finely minced shallot
– fresh black pepper to taste
– salt to taste
-3 tablespoons olive oil
– drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar (optional)
In a screw top jar, combine the juice, vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt and pepper. Shake to combine. Add the oil, and give everything a good hard shake until it’s emulsified into a creamy golden color.