Tuesday, March 13, 2012

All things bright

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Every year around this time, I crave foods that go crunch, foods alive with freshness, color and texture.  Last year I was eating this radish and fennel salad.  This year, my mind wandered far back in its archives - taking me back about 14 years.  You'll never guess what I was doing back then.  I was 23 years old, living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and every couple of days I'd get all suited up in my polyester blue dress with a plastic belt, stockings, high heels.  I'd pin my hair up in a french twist, attach my translator pin at the lapel of my blue blazer and drag my roll-aboard clunking along on the sidewalk behind me.  I'd make my way down the stairs of the subway, take two trains and a bus out to Newark airport, and from there board an international flight -- have you guessed it?  I was a flight attendant.

I became a flight attendant with three things in my head.  I loved to travel, I loved people and I had a burning urge to go to Brazil.  Well, I made it.  And when I was taking in the sun at the hotel in Copacabana, watching those volleyball players on the beach with their sculpted physiques, sipping fresh coconut juice, it was all worth it.  I've never lost my love for the Brazilian language, music, food, or spirit.  To me, a girl from Massachusetts, Brazilians were so alive, their zest for life so tangible and sensual.  In the end, the career was short-lived.  A few emergency landings later and I had definitely lost my naivet√© and "love" of the general public.  But those days in Rio will never leave me.

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For some reason one of my favorite ingredients came back to me the other night.  Heart of palm.  Palmito in Portuguese.  There I was again, sitting by the beach (while it was winter in NY), eating a salad with big chunks of palmito, fresh tomatoes, drenched in olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkled with salt.  Those few ingredients together were so divine.  So here I am 14 years later, worlds away from those days of high altitudes, just coming into another season.  Here's a salad I created to celebrate Spring, and all things bright and beautiful. I hope you've enjoyed the flight. 

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Salad of heart of palm, blood orange, avocado and endive
4 servings

2 avocados
2 blood oranges (or 1 grapefruit)
1 endive
1 can or jar of heart of palm
juice of 1/2 lemon
olive oil
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
coarse salt and pepper

Cut the avocados into chunks.  Remove the rind and white pith from the blood oranges, then cut those into chunks.  Slice the endive and the hearts of palm and combine all the vegetables in a bowl.  Mix a dressing of about equal parts lemon juice and olive oil, mix in some mustard powder if you have it, and dress the salad.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper.

11 comments:

  1. Nice, Nicole. Lately I am so in the mood for this sort of beautiful simplicity.

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  2. The traveling part of being a flight assistant really fascinates me, at the same time I had enough of working with people when I worked as a sales assistant as a student.... Not my cup of tea...

    Great salad!

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    1. I agree! no matter how much of a people person you are, the public just ruins that...

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  3. Two of my best friends are Brazilian. And I have been known to eat palmito right out of the jar while watching TV since I was a teen ager. My husband always hands me a few chunks of his when we are in a restaurant if he is served it.
    I was wondering for a minute when you mentioned your polyester dress and heels... it didn't sound like the kind of attire I imagined you in. ;o)
    I love crunch and fresh vegetables and fruit, especially when those first days of warm weather start!

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    1. I know....the worst part of that uniform was NYC summer and the commute in a subway with no AC. Very sweaty.

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  4. I love getting a glimpse into your life,Nicole. This salad is gorgeous filled with color and texture.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this little bit of your former life. I am on a blood orange binge right now while they are in season/available at the local markets and hearts of palm are just one of my favorites, so I will be making this simple, clean, crunchy salad this weekend. Really refreshing flavors! Thanks.

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  6. what an interesting experience. I did the travel life as a consultant) for a while and completely understand what you mean about it loosing glamor after a while... this salad is so fresh, so ipanema...

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  7. Such a beautiful combination of colours- I've also got a burning desire to get to Brazil- one which you've just fired up more than ever.... Thank you!

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  8. great story, Nichole. Your spirit for travel has taken you many places, in many guises. this salad is so appealing: vibrant colors, textures, tastes. wow

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