Today is March 4th, 2021. Though the year has been heavy, and the winter, cold, I have been making an extended effort to fill my soul with warmth, life, and color through the food I create.
Odd as it may seem to some, one of my ultimate comfort foods is a hardy salad. When made to my liking, it absolutely hits the spot. As I slug my way through winter on the comforts of fresh breads and pastas, I find myself missing my vegetables. I also find myself missing the warmth and familiarity of California, where I grew up. I miss the avocados. I miss walking with my dad down to the Italian American joint at the end of my street– an institution in my home town and in my upbringing– to get their house salad, which contains as much provolone cheese in it as it does lettuce, and which is drenched in oil and vinegar. Growing up outside of Los Angeles, I had the privilege of experiencing the most spectacular, exciting, memorable, and unexpected food adventures. Yet somehow among them, an unassuming cheese salad tossed with black olives, red onion, and tomato lives high on the list of dishes I miss the most. In the after times of the pandemic, I like to imagine myself sitting in the red booths of Dominicos with my dad, sipping cactus cooler from a vintage cocoa cola cup as I eat my comfort salad.
Until then, and as my nostalgia consumes me, I sustain myself on a salad born out of my cravings for pieces of home. The kale and avocado speak to a very Californian obsession with both. The provolone, onion, and tomato satisfy my hankering for Dominicos flavors. The rest of the components are colorful, complimentary additions I have come to incorporate over time as this salad has evolved in my home kitchen.
I present to you a rainbow salad, minus the blues:
- Kale (purple if you are actually trying to go for full rainbow colors), chopped
- Romaine, chopped
- Orange & yellow pepper, julienned
- Tomato, diced
- Cucumber, julienned
- Provolone cheese, cut into small thin strips
- Avocado, diced
- Scallions or red onion, sliced thin
- Basil, sliced thin
- Olive oil (flavored olive oils are great too)salad
- Black Pepper (freshly ground if possible)
- Nasturtiums to garnish
Adjust ratio of ingredients to your own taste, and make sure you massage the olive oil into the kale (to break down its cell structure to make it softer and more palatable).
When making this salad, I typically use a bunch or bag of kale, a bag of Romain, 2 peppers (one orange and one yellow), a container of campari tomatoes, 1 cucumber, a hunk of of provolone cheese, 1 avocado, a handful of scallions, a handful of basil, and salt, pepper, and olive oil to finish. I slice everything small and mix with my hands so that the kale gets massaged and the ingredients, incorporated.