On this particular Monday, exactly ten years ago, I:
1. Was a second-year undergrad at Syracuse University.
2. Wore my hair in a bouncy blonde bob and really loved corduroy pants and the frozen yogurt machine at Kimmel Dining Hall.
3. Was feverishly preparing a year-long journalism project, one of the most important of my academic career, that I was to present to my MAG 208 class the next morning at 10am.
4. Was absolutely, 100 percent transfixed by our amazing basketball team, known then as the Orangemen.
5. Was completely stressed out about that evening’s game, the Championship one, in which my Orangemen would take on Kansas.
6. Was about to experience one of the most memorable events of my life, when the Cuse beat Kansas in a buzzer beater for the history books, 81-78.
I wish very badly that I had a photo of that magical night at the Carrier Dome, where I joined thousands of other students, my roommates, and SU fans and watched the victory, live from New Orleans, on a giant screen. But picture-taking cellphones did not exist yet (and did I even have a regular cellphone? I think maybe not), and digital cameras were really expensive. I can close my eyes and remember it with great clarity, though.
I had sincerely hoped that this feeling would be repeated with a Syracuse win on Saturday, over Michigan, to take them to this evening’s Championship against Louisville. Everything is in place for that kind of magic: the team is excellent, Coach Boeheim is celebrated with over 900 wins in his career, and it’s been 10 years since they last won, and I’m a great believer in symmetry like that. But it was not to be.
I have coping mechanisms to deal with disappointments like this, because I’m an adult. And as a show of unity to my fallen champions, tonight’s dinner is nothing more than a meatless tribute (and a use for the last oranges of the season): mixed citrus salad with feta and mint. Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, inspired by Sorella‘s cara cara orange and ricotta salad from last night’s anniversary dinner with M, and dedicated to the 2012-2013 Syracuse Orange season, which was phenomenal.
Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta & Mint
3 to 4 tbsp. red onion, diced
4 pieces of citrus, preferably a mix of grapefruits, oranges, tangerines, & mineola
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp. smooth Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 – 4 tbsp. (1.5 oz.) feta cheese, chopped or crumbled
1 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped or cut into tiny slivers
Place your red onion in the bottom of a medium bowl. Nest a strainer over the bowl.
Prepare your citrus fruits by beveling the stem end of one, cutting enough off that you reveal the pith-free flesh of the fruit. Repeat on the other end. Rest your fruit on one of its now-flat surface and begin cutting the peel and pith off in large, vertical pieces. You want the fruit’s exterior to be “white”-free. Turn the fruit back on its side and cut it into 1/4-in. thick wheels, removing any seeds and thick white stem as you do. Place the wheels and any collected juices from the cutting board in the strainer over the bowl with onion. Repeat with remaining citrus fruits. (As the extra juices drip over the bowl, it will soften the raw onion bite.)
Spread fruit slices out on a platter. Scoop out the onion bits (a slotted spoon or fork does the trick) and sprinkle them over, leaving the juice in the bowl. Whisk one tablespoon of juice (this is all I had accumulated) with red wine vinegar or lemon juice, Dijon and olive oil. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the citrus, sprinkle with feta and mint, adjust salt and pepper to taste, serve immediately.