One of the perks of pursuing a PhD is that the summers are just a step away from the carefree summers of youth. Yes, technically we were all still pursuing our research, but the summers always had a very different vibe. In an anthropology department, all of the professors scatter to their field sites (or sometimes, their summer homes), while the grad students tag along on legendarily debaucherous archaeological digs or other such “work”. Those of us who were left behind (mostly the more lab-work oriented in the bunch) would come in to find deserted halls and lots of time and freedom to pursue our other interests, such as sunbathing alongside the Charles River with a Diet Coke big gulp in hand (ah, those were the days!) There was even one grad student in our department (no, not me) who decided to take a summer job at the Gap to supplement her meager income rather than working on her research.
So as I started my post-graduate career, it came as something of a rude shock to find that not all of academia shuts down as soon as classes end in May. Those of us on the more clinical side may not even notice that it’s summer aside from it being a little warmer as we walk to our cars. I haven’t had sunbathed with a Big Gulp in quite a while and its been years since I got into a bathing suit. (Which says as much about my preferred pastimes as my work schedule, I suppose.) This year it was particularly bad; what with our move from Los Angeles to upstate NY, summer came and went with the blink of an eye, punctuated only by lots of rain and cries of, “Is it already time to mow the lawn AGAIN?”
We were in no mood to eat salad this past summer, not even my favorite salads of the fruit-nut-cheese variety. Now fall is another story. Fall is when the Northeast is at its best, with leaf peeping, apple picking, and lots and lots of pie. As you pull out your slow-cooker and turn to soups and comfort food, may I remind you that salads can be decidedly autumnal, too? I’m thinking of this particular combination with crisp pears, salty parmesan, and crunchy cashews from Jamie Oliver, via Serious Eats. I won’t lie- it’s not going to make you forget about the luscious berries and stone fruits that you enjoyed just a few weeks ago, but it might just remind you that fall has its little joys, too.
Pear, Parmesan, and Cashew Salad (serves 4)
Adapted from The Naked Chef Takes Off by Jamie Oliver.
2 Bosc pears, sliced thinly
5 ounces greens, a mixture of arugula and mesclun
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil, or to coat
Shaved Parmesan or Piave cheese
Handful unsalted cashews, crushed roughly
1. In a large salad bowl, add the greens. Pour a gentle stream of olive oil 3-4 times around the bowl, just enough to coat the sides well. Do the same with the lemon juice. Add a good pinch of salt for each person.
2. Add the pear slices, then toss the greens gently until evenly coated with the oil and the acid. Taste and adjust the oil/acid/salt ratio. Top with the cashews and shaved cheese. Finish with fresh black pepper.