We were supposed to be leaving for Vietnam tomorrow, on a luxury biking tour with Butterfield & Robinson. Instead of packing today, I’m in Vancouver and getting ready to head back to St. Paul’s Hospital, where my father-in-law is there awaiting a procedure for a new heart valve. We’ve actually been in the hospital with him for the last two weeks, sitting by his bedside first in the intensive care unit and then on the general cardiac ward. He has had amazing care and is in good spirits, but he can’t go home until his valve is replaced.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that we’re not going on the trip. It promised to be an amazing tour, and it was Elie’s gift to me in celebration of my 40th birthday. Although a birthday is just a day, 40 feels like a big deal and a milestone worthy of the reflection, challenge and celebration. I’ll just now be doing that reflection in Vancouver, which is not such a bad thing.
There are silver linings in every cloud, right?
Here are the silver linings.
We paid for the trip to Vietnam in full and the cost is non-refundable, so we are sending two different friends on the trip in our place—two amazing women who each are at a crossroads in their lives and could benefit from this trip even more than us. I feel blessed and thankful that they will get to have this experience and hope it is at least inspirational if not transformational.
Moe, Elie’s dad, lights up every time we walk into the hospital room. I want to be present to provide support and encouragement and a kiss on the cheek to this man who has become such an important part of my life. He is an inspiration himself, and a testament that age has no meaning—it’s your spirit that matters. At 92, he’s suffered a tremendous amount of success in his life combined with crippling loss. He lost both of his parents when he was young, lost his wife too early in her life, and his daughter way before her time on this earth should have ended. But you would never know the sorrow he’s endured, because he greets each day with a skip in his step and an unwavering positive attitude. So, I’m not disappointed that we’re not going on this trip, because I’m grateful he’s still here.
And lastly, Elie and I are blessed to have a life where we can pack our bags at a moment’s notice and head anywhere we want to go. I don’t take that for granted for a second and I am thankful for that gift each and every day. There will be other trips.
So, instead of packing, I’m making salad. For that first week in the hospital, neither Elie nor I had much of an appetite, so we got in the habit of picking up lattes and a bacon cheddar scone or a chocolate chip cookie from Small Victory, which is delicious, but not the healthiest start to each day.
This week, I’m making salads, starting with this one, which has all of those satisfying aspects of the perfect salad—savory, sweet, crunchy, creamy, salty, spicy. I love this salad. I hope you do too.
Roasted Beet & Blood Orange Salad with Celery, Goat Cheese, Olives & Dukkah
Makes 2 large or 4 small salads
2 large red beets
2 blood oranges
4 celery stalks, with leaves
½ cup pitted Castelvetrano olives
4 ounces Humboldt Fog, or a similar goat cheese
1 tablespoon dukkah (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Maldon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
First, cook the beets. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and place them on a baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the oven and roast the beets for about an hour, or until the beets are very tender. A fork should be able to easily pierce to the center. Remove the beets from the oven and let them cool completely. Once they are cooled, peel the beets and cut them into wedges. Place them in a large bowl
Next, zest the two blood oranges, placing the zest into a small bowl.
Then, peel the blood oranges with a knife. Holding one orange over the bowl with the beets use a knife to cut between the membranes of the blood orange, cutting out the orange segments. Place the segments in the bowl with the beets.
Hold the remainder of the blood orange (the center and pith) over the small bowl that contains the zest and squeeze out any remaining juice.
Thinly slice the celery on the diagonal, including the leaves, and add the celery slices to the bowl with the blood oranges. Add the pitted olives and about 1 tablespoon of the dukkah.
You should have about 2 tablespoons of blood orange juice in the small bowl. Add the lemon juice, a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper and then whisk in about 2 – 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, depending on how you like your salad dressing. Add the dressing to the salad and very gently toss everything together.
Divide the salad between two or four bowls, and place the cheese on top (either sliced or crumbled—your choice). Garnish with additional sea salt and dukkah, if you like.
Makes about ¾ cup
1/2 cup unsalted, raw pistachios
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (1/4 teaspoon, if you don’t want it spicy)
1 teaspoon maldon sea salt
Add pistachios to a dry skillet placed over medium-low heat and toast, stirring occasionally, until the pistachios are golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pistachios to a bowl and let them cool. Add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds to the same skillet. Toast those until you can smell the spices, about 1 minute. Add the spices to the bowl with the pistachios and let them cool. Transfer the nut and spice mixture to a food processor or a mortar and pestle and coarsely grind. Pour the spice mixture into a container and add the salt and red pepper flakes.
The dukkah can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. It is delicious on salads, avocado toast, eggs or roasted meats. It’s my favorite spice mix right now.