Odd orange salad: The thrill of the surreal

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Odd Orange Salad

Finished dish photo of an orange salad. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune / January 2, 2014)

"Surreal means odd," I explained. Which left a lot unexplained. So I downloaded the paintings of Rene Magritte. Over odd orange salad, we studied the man in the bowler hat, brilliant green apple suspended before his face. We puzzled over the pipe that isn't a pipe. We watched the train chug out of the fireplace. "The precision of reality," I said, "the feeling of a dream." Noah nodded.

We were trapped in a theme park, in Florida, the very place I swore we'd never go. And yet, we went. We saw cartoons snap from 2-D to 3-D. We saw movies blast from screen to life. We saw whole countries shrunk down to a pizzeria and a gift shop. We took selfies, in hats.

I kept trying to pinpoint the theme of this theme park. Nausea? Overstimulation? Scooters? Or was it that faulty seam between reality and fantasy?

In deference to overstimulation, I topped our heaping day with tickets to Cirque du Soleil. The lights dimmed. A wiry man wheeled his velocipede across the sky. A keening lament filled the air. A window swung open, backlit by a sunny green field. In the dark, my wordsmith leaned close and whispered: "Surreal." He gave a knowing smile. Of all the theme park thrills, that was the best.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.

Twitter @leaheskin

Odd orange salad

Prep: 30 minutes

Navel oranges, 1 to 2 per person

Sugar

Flaky salt, such as Maldon

Red onion

Small nicoise olives

Olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Juice: Use a five-hole zester to carve long, thin strips of zest from one orange. Set aside zest. Halve and juice that orange. Pour juice into a shallow bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 pinch salt.

2. Temper: Slice onion in half, root to stem. Lay flat and slice crosswise into thin semicircles. Toss onions in juice. Add cold water, if need be, to just cover onions. Let rest, 20 minutes.

3. Slice: Lop off the north and south poles of the remaining oranges. In long north to south strokes, cut away peel and pith, leaving oranges naked. Slice into ¼-inch thick circles. Arrange orange circles on serving plates.

4. Decorate: Rinse and pat dry olives. Scatter a small handful onto each plate. Pat dry onions. Scatter on. Drizzle each salad with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Cast on a few curls of reserved zest. Enjoy.

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