These are strange times. People are hunkering down at home, everyone’s email inboxes are blowing up with long-forgotten-companies’ plans on how to handle COVID-19, toilet paper is suddenly worth its weight in gold, and the internet is sluggish from everyone working from home. We don’t have sports to watch, gyms to work out at, bars to hang out in, or, in a lot of cases, offices to work at. I’m reminded of Gandalf, who told Frodo, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Look, this isn’t the Dark Ages reborn; we still have Netflix, and hot water, and electricity; we can still go to the grocery store to get food (just maybe not pasta or beans right now). But it’s certainly a pause on normal life, and if we can take anything away from this experience it’s to spend a little more time on the simple things that bring you and others joy. Maybe that means, like me, cooking meals for your family—I now have time to soak dried beans and cook them in the afternoon before I need them for dinner. Or maybe it means sitting down to draw for the first time in weeks or years; what about that old set of watercolors collecting dust in the back of a drawer? Maybe you’ll find yourself taking solo walks around your neighborhood as a break from working in your living room, lilting bird song keeping you company on an empty street. Read a book, play board games, take out some knitting needles, snuggle your pets. At least, that’s what I’ll be doing.
Even though this is not actually the apocalypse (the people who’ve been ravenously clearing out shelves of water and TP at Costco may disagree), I’ve felt more inclined to make nourishing meals full of hearty vegetables and fresh salads that might boost up our vitamin levels (COVID-19’s kryptonite might just be kale—who knows!). If you’re still braving the Farmer’s Markets like I am, pick up some spicy arugula and winter citrus and you’ll be half way to this simple salad.
Cara Cara oranges, a winter crop that I look forward to every year, look pretty average on the outside but their juicy pink interiors are spectacular. Feel free to substitute blood oranges, or use a combination of the two. If you work full time like I do, even if you’re now working 10 feet from your kitchen, you’ll appreciate the speed at which this dish makes it from the cutting board to the table.
Don’t forget to support your local businesses and farmers and, of course, stay healthy, happy, and safe.
Arugula Salad with Cara Caras, Dates, Almonds, & Parmesan
serves 4 • adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin
4-5 medjool dates
2-3 Cara Cara oranges or 4 blood oranges
2 hefty handfuls baby arugula, cleaned
1/2 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
1/2 a Meyer lemon
Pit the dates and slice them into quarters or eighths. Cut the top and bottoms off the oranges, then slice downwards from one cut end to the other, curving your knife around the orange so that you remove just the rind and white pith (removing as little actual orange as possible). Slice each orange in half, then again into quarters (you will be left with 8 half moons per orange).
Scatter the arugula across a large serving platter or bowl. Sprinkle the almonds, dates, and orange slices across the top. Shave pieces of parmesan onto the whole affair until you’ve reached the cheese level you desire. Squeeze half a lemon over everything, followed by a decent drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle a little salt on top (use some nice flaky salt if you have it). Taste and add more lemon juice, olive oil, or salt as needed.