Cooking & Books: Simple Winter Salad and a Great Read

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

I've been in a cooking and reading mood lately, perhaps because the view off my front deck has been white more often than usual. (The photo below is yesterday morning, after 10 inches of snow fell overnight, a lot of snow for my high-desert valley in February.)

Shovel poised, ready to un-bury the front steps and the sidewalk. Shovel poised, ready to un-bury the front steps and the sidewalk.

On Sunday, when the snow was falling along with the temperature, I had an urge for something green and fruity for lunch. So I invented myself a simple mixed lettuce salad using winter fruits, plus cheese and nuts, a kind of homage to the season that looked toward spring. Here's the recipe (to serve more than one person, simply multiply the quantity of each ingredient):

Simple Winter Greens Salad

1 cup mixed greens (I used mixed baby lettuces grown in geothermally heated greenhouses at nearby Mount Princeton Hot Springs, but you could use anything, including baby kale and spinach)
1/2 ripe organic pear (mine was a Bartlett)1/4 ripe organic avocado
2 T toasted pecans
1/2 oz gouda cheese (a good aged cheddar would also be delicious; I used gouda because Rocking W Cheeses in western Colorado makes one that's local)
1 T organic olive oil (I use Stonehouse Olive Oil from California because I value food that's as local as possible, since it doesn't travel as far and require so much fuel to get to my plate)
2 tsp organic Balsamic vinegar
pinch salt

Tear or chop up the greens in a bowl, dress with salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and toss gently to mix. Slice the pear and avocado lengthwise and chop into bite-sized pieces and arrange over the top of the greens. Crumble the pecans and scatter them over the top of the fruit (yes, avocado is a fruit!), and then slice the cheese into short slivers and distribute those atop the whole.

My Simple Winter Greens Salad, delicious, healthy and hinting at spring.... My Simple Winter Greens Salad, delicious, healthy and hinting at spring....

Take a moment to appreciate the plants that made your food and the people who grew, harvested, and produced it, and then dive in and enjoy!

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When the weather's this cold and snowy, I love to curl up on the couch and lose myself in a good book. Which is what I did this weekend in between laundry and paying bills and checking in with my 86-year-old dad by phone and the other minutia of household life.

The book I read, which came from my to-review stack for Story Circle Book Reviews, sucked me right in. It was so good that I read it in one sitting, and then read it through again the next day. The story is that compelling and haunting.

Running Out of Night, by Sharon Lovejoy Running Out of Night, by Sharon Lovejoy

Running Out of Night is Sharon Lovejoy's debut novel, and what a debut it is! (Lovejoy is known for her garden books for kids and adults, which have won all sorts of awards and become bestsellers.)

Here's a taste of my review:

"Mama gave her last breath just as I took my first."

That simple sentence both opens Sharon Lovejoy's YA novel and defines the life of its main character, twelve-year-old, unnamed "Girl."

Although Pa and my big brothers never said they blamed me for her death, I always felt it achin inside me, like the rotten tooth our blacksmith plied out of my mouth. Why else would a pa and his boys let a little girl come into the world and live for twelve years without givin her a name?

Girl lives with her brothers and her bad-tempered pa, "born tired and raised lazy," on the small farm that was her grandfather's in the blue-hazy ridges of eastern Virginia in 1858.

Until fate, in the form of a runaway slave girl just Girl's age, steps in, and the two set off on a hero's journey, a gripping tale of both great beauty and great peril. The two girls, one white, one black, are transformed by their desperate flight in ways that ring true both for their time and today's world.

Read the whole review here. And then read Running Out of Night. You'll be glad you did.