Sunday, March 18, 2012

Kale, Apple and Pancetta Salad with Quinoa: Be disturbed

I have a routine.

Every morning before I sit down for breakfast, I lay out my copy of the print edition of the LA Times on my dining table. I separate the sections, immediately disposing of the Sports section (Jeremy Lin, who?), and then I place the Calendar section on top, spread open to the third to last page.

I'm not one to think too seriously about Mercury being in retrograde, or whether my sign is in line with the guy I like (I'm more concerned with whether he wants to take me to Mozza for dinner), yet every morning the first thing I read in the paper is my horoscope.

I usually tell myself it's silly, that 90% of the time it could be applicable to anyone with a pulse (Molly Mazda included), but on Tuesday morning, my horoscope read this:

"You'll never know what would have happened had your original plan worked out, but you can bet it wouldn't be as great as what's happening now."

If I were a cartoon character or Zooey Deschanel on a certain sitcom I love, I would have spat my green coconut-infused tea out in overdramatic, sputtering, hose-like fashion. Since I'm not inclined toward sputtering or spitting when I'm surprised, however, I simply reread it over and over again, willing it to be true.

Tuesday was a big day for me. And in the moment that I was rereading those words, my bowl of oatmeal growing cold in front of me, I knew the day could easily go one way or the other. I could easily find myself back at the starting line, or I could win the race.

In a flash, my life could be different. My world, rocked. My original plan, a blurry photograph from another era.

" can bet it wouldn't be as great as what's happening now."

The elephant, which I can now reference in the flesh, went away on Tuesday afternoon. My brief stint with (deep breath because even now the word still terrifies me) unemployment ended almost as soon as it had begun. A new plan to supersede the original plan that I thought was so right/so perfect/everything-I wanted-and-more, came through in such a way that I couldn't help but think, "Yes, yes, of course!"

Because, you know, my horoscope had told me so that morning.

I'm not very good at dealing with the disruption of things, plans, my un-rocked world. Order is my pot de creme and the ugly other -- the lumps -- are terrifying for me. But Tuesday I fully embraced the new plan and the disruption of my life as I had known it to be just two weeks prior. It felt right. Maybe even meant to be.

This kale salad, adapted ever so slightly from Serious Eats, also rocked my world this week. Fatty cubes of pancetta revolutionize the virtuous green, and radicchio lends a supporting hand as a proper counterbalance to the sweet maple vinaigrette and slivers of apple. It's a salad with lumps -- crunchy pecans, savory knobs of pancetta -- and all the better because of it.

I add red quinoa to mine. Because recipes, like original plans, are meant to be disturbed.

Kale, Apple and Pancetta Salad with Quinoa
Serves 4
Adapted ever so slightly from Serious Eats

Notes: The only changes I made to this salad were to add quinoa and to reduce the amount of oil. I also gave the kale a good bit of massaging before I added it to the mix -- gives it a silkier texture that I find a bit more appealing to eat than unmassaged raw kale.

3/4 cup red quinoa, rinsed well
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 ounces pancetta, cubed
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 small head of radicchio, shredded
1 8-ounce bunch kale, stems discarded, leaves shredded
2 tart yet sweet apples, sliced into matchsticks
3/4 cup pecans, toasted

Bring just under a cup and a half of water to boil in a saucepan. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for approximately 20-25 minutes. (Note: Red quinoa takes longer to cook than the white variety.) When the water has been absorbed and shells have separated from the kernels, remove the lid, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

Heat small frying pan with a lip for pouring (I used a cast iron) or small saucepan over medium heat. Add two teaspoons of the oil, swirling to coat the base of the pan. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until the pancetta is crispy and golden brown, but not burned, on all sides. Remove the cubes with a slotted spoon or fork and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.

Pour the fat from the pan into a small bowl. Add the vinegar, maple syrup and pepper. Whisk till well-combined.

Meanwhile, drizzle the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil and salt over the shredded kale. Massage with your fingers until the kale shrinks in size and takes on a somewhat silky texture.

Toss massaged kale, radicchio, apple, quinoa, pancetta, and pecans together in a large bowl. Add the dressing and stir until well-combined. Serve immediately.


Banana Wonder said...

what! What is going on TALF. I'll be in LA/OC Tues-Sat this week, maybe we can meet up.

Esi said...

Yeah, I want some of this.

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