Parking Lot Salad
We've been living on the road for a month now. Every time I get frustrated when I hit my head on the ceiling or the tahini falls out of the fridge and cracks open, I remind myself how amazing it is that we've been in fourteen states since we left New York last month. It feels good to be vagabond again, to wake up with the sun, to look at an atlas and decide where to go for the day. I think both of us are falling into a familiar feeling -- realizing we need fewer showers, fewer things; shedding layers of what we thought was important to us and reevaluating what actually is.
We've been moving quickly across the country and into the West, literally into the sun as it falls onto the horizon every night. The roads are largely empty, lined with billboards and littered with Trump signs. We've watched the landscape change and then change again, from the cold wet air in the Northeast, into the edge of Hurricane Matthew, and then down through the South as we inched towards California. With every state the air gets warmer and drier, the sun stronger, the sunsets wider and brighter. It briefly felt like Fall in the Smoky Mountains, on a stretch of winding road lined with colored leaves and a low fog that hung beneath the mountain peaks. And in Texas it was Summer again, drinking beer at string light bars and outdoor patios.
We stayed with some of my best friends in Nashville, listening to country music and eating hot chicken, hot to the point we were pouring ranch into our mouths. We ate whole hog BBQ in North Carolina the day before the hurricane hit. We saw old friends, made fast friends, showered in motel parking lots, snuck into hot springs, sunbathed and skinny-dipped. We've slept in parking lots, State Parks, farms, and fields.
And in between all that? We've broken down a lot. We're getting used to something sputtering or coming loose, to losing our gas cap, to spending our afternoons at auto parts stores. We've been to a mechanic in what feels like every state. A part of me likes it. We've learned about engines and carburetors and fuses and windshield wipers. Breaking down takes us out of our heads -- it reminds us to step out of what easily becomes a fast-paced life and just enjoy sitting still. It's a good time to rest, to clean, to write, to cook, to laugh about our lives and this silly old truck we bought.
We made lunch in an auto shop parking lot on a 99 degree day in Scottsdale, Arizona. It's been so hot that we spent three days eating cold salads and drinking Miller High Life. This one's a hearty grain and vegetable salad with a tahini sauce, dried mango, and some latoi onions, a local Arizona onion that's like a cross between a scallion and a chive (you could easily substitute scallions). You could also substitute almost any hearty grain for the farro.
Cauliflower, Brussels & Farro Salad with Dried Mango
Makes 4 cups / 2 servings
1/2 head cauliflower, shaved thin on a mandolin
8 brussels sprouts, shaved thin on a mandolin
1/2 cup cooked farro (or wheat berries, barley, or other cooked grain)
6 slices dried mango, thinly sliced
1 stalk spring onion or scallion, thinly sliced
1 small handful cilantro leaves
3 tbl tahini
3 tbl olive oil
half lemon, squeezed
salt to taste
To cook the farro, combine 1 cup dry farro and 3 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. When the water evaporates, the farro should be fully cooked and fluffy. Set aside 1/2 cup for the salad.
Meanwhile, shave the brussels and cauliflower on a mandolin. Thinly slice the mango and the scallions, and combine all of the salad ingredients.
To make the dressing, combine the tahini, olive oil, and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Season with salt to taste, pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss to combine.