I could make so many stupid comparisons about this salad and life in general. Life is indeed sometimes bitter. Sometimes sour. (I prefer the crunchy times.) But really it reminds me of my third simple pleasure:
Be in nature.
Running along the edge of the river in Sesto Calende, I started thinking about the difference a little sunshine makes. Or anything natural. The village was rich in natural beauty – a long curving river with a proud swan’s nest, a green canopy of trees along the towpath. The locals were all out for an evening walk – la passeggiata – just watching the sun go down, checking up on the nine swan eggs. Though I like my new incarnation as a city girl, I always forget just how much I need some green leaves, sun on my face, a stretch of water.
The evening entertainment in Sesto was perhaps the most romantic picnic possible. We packed a tub of this salad, bread, ricotta and some slightly squashed carrot cake, clambered onto a dinghy and rowed out to a pirate boat, floating alone in the middle of a lake. Just one proud mast. Four hungry pirates armed with tealights and thick socks. At one point I watched in the candlelight as a single swan feather floated by on the black water. It was ridiculously poetic.
We stabbed at leaves of radicchio and crumbs of feta. Talked of seed bombs and guerrilla gardening. And of “Spiderman”, a tiny student of mine who refuses to learn the word rainbow. Finally the cold breeze and what looked like a real leech chased us back inside.
Despite the leeches, despite all the rainy days spent camping with Scouts, just being surrounded by green still does me a world of good. Epecially when the little Spidermen get too frustrating. When I have to keep confiscating the scissors or saying “sit down” as if I were dog training. Lunch in the scrubby park in the sun and a perfectly balanced salad like this one are all I need. Appropriately rainbow coloured – red, green, yellow and cream – it mixes sharp flavours, crunchy textures and smooth salty cheese. Play around with the ingredients, but make sure to eat it outside.
(inspired by Orangette’s A Homemade Life)
feeds 4 hungry pirates
bitter: 1 whole radicchio
sweet: 1 red pepper
tart: 1 braeburn (or other sharp apple)
crunchy: 1/2 bulb fennel or 2 sticks celery
creamy: 200g feta (or 1 avocado)
sour: lemon dressing (3 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp mustard, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt)
Tear the radicchio into bite-sized leaves. Slice the pepper, apple and fennel into long elegant strips. Toss all together. Cube the feta (or avocado) and sprinkle on top of the salad. In a small jar, shake all of the dressing ingedients together until smooth. Taste – add more lemon/salt/oil as needed. It should be quite sour. Just before you are ready to eat, tip the dressing over the salad and toss gently.