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  • Melissa Orquiza

Tuscan Kale Salad with Fennel, Radish & Ricotta Salata, Hump Day, Fear & The Science of Serendipity

Gjelina's Tuscan Kale Salad with Fennel, Radish, & Ricotta Salata. Perfect for a weekday lunch break!

Tuscan Kale Salad Slideshow

Gjelina’s Kale Salad with Radish, Fennel & Ricotta Salata, Hump Day, Fear, Risk Assessment, & The Science of Serendipity

Every Wednesday, my husband, daughter and I celebrate “Hump Day,” as a way to laugh and recenter during a grueling week. Some weeks are more difficult than others and depending on which part of our lives needs rest and focus, I try to match our activities (music and food) based on what needs extra attention.

My husband and I work together and innately, there are pros and cons. The “Hump Day” celebration started years ago, while still in our twenties, as a way to deal with the 7 days a week, around the clock work schedule. It was a perfect warm-up to parenthood! Nowadays, I think everyone works this way, no matter what industry or profession. I mentioned, “Why don’t we celebrate ‘Hump Day’?” He laughed, but it definitely became a thing. As an aside, we were still friends then and he couldn’t understand why someone so serious (it’s called focus) and quiet at work (it’s called focus) was so goofy and fun after hours (serendipity). (It’s called balance and nerdy musician girl). The activities may have changed (no more languid lunches or midnight food runs around UCLA) but we still temper our work with an attempt at family balance with celebrations- midweek and the weekend. He learned early on I liked to work hard and play hard (and I still do). He laughs and says he can’t keep up with my and my daughter. Damn straight!

Lately, I am overjoyed to see that the my friends and family are much happier. Schools are reopening, vaccinations are readily available, restaurants are starting to open and (hooray!) movie theaters are open. Risk assessment is a common theme from our younger days to the present. Neither of us are particularly risk- averse, within reason. I once, convinced a group of drunk musicians to hike to the Hollywood sign at 2 in the morning… in high heels and also went to the pound every week for months until I found my first dog, an Aussie- Border collie mix. I had never seen the Hollywood sign and I had never cared for a pet (but assumed I was probably a dog person). My border collie mix lived for 16 years.

Fear, risk assessment, work, courage and joy all play into our decision making, oftentimes overriding inaction out of comfort. Sitting still and watching life happen was a huge source of anxiety and unhappiness when I was younger. I am grateful I learned that important life lesson early on. I learned (the hard way) I had more control and a voice in my decision making than I thought, regardless of societal and familial pressures. It’s much easier to blame others for failures (we’ve all been there) but we all have the capacity to make good decisions through hard work, incisive decision making and planning. Sometimes, things are just beyond your control but fear shouldn’t stop you from inaction. Here’s to learning and successfully, making good decisions.

How does fear play into our decision making? Check out these articles.

Fear overestimates threats and the effectiveness of interventions. This article discusses cognitive biases, emotion versus logic, and over estimation of fear… you know, the psychological underpinnings when you’re assessing large life decisions (consciously or subconsciously).

Anxiety interferes with decision making. (Duh). What’s interesting is that this research shows that anxiety disengages brain cells in a highly specialized manner, as opposed to the assumption that anxiety is equated with fear and that it over engages entire brain circuits.

Basically, you can make good decisions but anxiety causes you to make more mistakes. Um.. I think this explains this past pandemic year! lol!

Bita Moghaddam, Ph.D is a professor and chair of behavioral neuroscience at OHSU, School of Medicine. Check out her ethos on brain illnesses and her research on the prefrontal cortex subregions and dopamine neurons in the midbrain in relation to illnesses such as schizophrenia, ADHD, anxiety and addictive disorders. (Wait! I’ve always wondered if practicing is an addictive disorder….) See! There was a method to my madness of celebrating “Hump Day!”

Here is her bio and a list of her recents papers and links to her articles.

If you don’t want to read science articles, here’s Dr. Phil’s advice. Since up to 80 percent of our decisions are fear based, he advocates understanding whether or not your decision is escape-based or target- based. Totally true! Don’t do something when you really need something else!

Who doesn't love unexpected humor? Check out these funny concert moments. Is this Serendipity in action?

Funny Concert Moments

And finally, check out this fascinating podcast how the cultivation of serendipity. So many people still think I’m just a goof. I’m exploring my world! (I am still always down for fun after finishing work). My husband says he saw science and logic to the madness, but he couldn’t (completely) figure me out and that’s what made me so intriguing. Serendipity!

Viagra, A Potato Washing Machine, Potentiality of Serendipity & Opportunity

Author and global affairs expert Christian Busch argues that what we tend to call luck is simply opportunity that we don’t recognize at first.

Harvard Business Review: FOMO Sapiens with Patrick J. McGinnis/ Season 4, Episode 19

The Science of Serendipity

I hope this makes you think, laugh, smile and hopefully bring some sense of collective happiness and calm to your decision making. Try not to let fear cause inaction. On a personal note, if things are really crazy, I like to celebrate Hump Day and whatever small victories comes our way… every single day! Don’t forget the weekend! You can also have a “Hump” weekend! Work hard, play hard… and laugh! HUMP DAY! Have a great week! Xo, Melissa

Tuscan Kale Salad with Fennel, Radish & Ricotta Salata. When you want to feel virtuous for "Hump Day" or any weekday lunch!

Tuscan Kale Salad with Fennel, Radish & Ricotta Salata

by Travis Lett, from “Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California”

The salad keeps well in the fridge, too so the leftovers (without the dressing) are great for when you're in a bind!


1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

2 large bunches Tuscan kale, stemmed and cut into 1/4- in- 6mm wide strips

Kosher salt

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more as needed

1 1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed

6 radishes, thinly sliced

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and shaved, with a vegetable peeler

1 large handful Garlic Croutons, fully cooled

2 oz. (55 grams) ricotta salata cheese (I hard trouble finding it so substituted good Parmigiano- Reggiano).

Freshly ground black pepper


1. In a large bowl, drizzle the olive oil over the kale and sprinkle with salt. Massage the leaves until softened and tender, squeezing them firmly with your hands. This breaks down the cell walls, making the greens softer and more receptive to the dressing. Add the vinegar and lemon juice and continue to massage the kale. Add more vinegar, lemon juice, or salt if necessary, and make sure there is enough rich, velvety olive oil coating the leaves. Add the sliced radishes and shaved fennel.

2. Place the croutons on a work surface and, using a rolling pin or chef’s knife, crush into coarse crumbs. (I didn’t do this and used a good rosemary- olive bread to make the croutons. My daughter loves freshly made croutons so crushing them would break her heart.)

3. With a vegetable peeler, shave the ricotta salata into the bowl. Toss gently to combine. Add the crouton crumbs and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates and serve. This salad holds up well for several hours, but should be eaten the day it is made.

Garlic Croutons

(The salad is great without it, too... you know. When things are insane you don't really have time to make croutons!)


3 to 4 Tablespoon (45-60ml) olive oil from Garlic Confit or plain extra-virgin olive oil. (I used plain extra virgin olive oil. I didn’t make a garlic confit ahead of time but plan on making some now since it’s a total chefy timesaver.)

Four 1-in-(6mm) thick slices day-old sourdough bread, country white, or baguette, torn into quarter-size pieces (I used a rosemary olive bread since that what I had).

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper


1. In a medium frying pan, heat 3 Tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pieces of bread, making sure not to crowd the pan. Cook, turning occasionally and adding another 1 Tablespoon oil, if necessary, until the croutons are crisp on the surface but still slightly soft in the center, about 7 minutes.

2. No need to be too fussy: an uneven color gives the croutons more character. Season with

salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, and set aside until ready to toss the salad.

Garlic Confit

Makes 4 cups


2 cups (480 ml) extra-virgin oilve oil, plus more as needed

8 heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

12 fresh thyme springs

3 bay leaves


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

2. In a medium baking dish, combine the oilve oil, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. The garlic should be completely covered by about 1 in. (2.5 cm) of oil. Bake until the garlic cloves are soft, fragrant, and lightly browned but still hold their shape, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

3. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

4. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2months, completely covered with olive oil to prevent air from reaching them.

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