Spicy tuna salad
and author Mike Orenduff
By Christina Stock
Is it just me, or does it feel that every year, there are more and more days with over 100ºF? But that happens when you live in the desert, though ours is a high desert. Nobody knows who coined the term “high desert,” it’s a rather informal description of an arid climate zone in rocky, high elevation that popped up as a term in the early 20th century. The news media and authors loved this description and it became popular to use from Oregon to California, New Mexico to Texas.
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This is not the first time I lived in a desert. The last one was the desert of Saudi Arabia. I was a kid and we lived on a mountain in a village called Taif, without air conditioning. It was not as brutally hot in the summer as down in the sand desert, but plenty hot for Americans and Europeans who worked there building roads, hotels and teaching the Saudi military how to fly helicopters, which my father was hired to do.
As a muslim country, we only had access to pork and sausages on rare occasions, when the companies the Western employees worked for smuggled some in by plane. The arid climate was impossible to sustain cattle, and fresh goat meat or chicken was rare, as well, because it would spoil so fast in the heat. We lived most of the time on powdered milk, cornflakes, peanut butter, dehydrated potato flakes, canned meat and canned tuna.
When the temperatures soared again last week, I remembered a salad that we enjoyed. It is a little different, but delicious. You can make it either fresh, or use leftovers to spruce it up.
Spicy tuna salad
Serves 2 as main course, or 4 as appetizers
1 bag of fresh spinach
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup grated white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Kalamata olives (or any salad olives)
1/2 cup roasted almond slices
1 cup of cooked pasta
1 can of white tuna in water (5 oz)
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup good olive oil, cold pressed
1/2 cup chopped Serrano chile
An hour or more before serving: In a small pot, bring the vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil until the sugar and salt are well dissolved. Add the chile and refrigerate.
In a bowl, mix the spinach, carrots, cheese and pasta and put into plates. Top the salad with tuna flakes and olives.
Pour about 2 Tbsp. of the vinegar-chile mix on the salad and drizzle some of the olive oil over it. Finally, top the salad with the almond slices.
Serve with fresh bread.
Books for comfort
The New Mexico author I want to introduce you to today has ties to Roswell.
His biography shows his sense of humor and his roots in New Mexico: “Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande that he could frisbee a tortilla into Mexico from his back yard. While a student at the University of New Mexico, he worked during the summer as a volunteer teacher at one of the nearby pueblos. After receiving a PhD, he became a professor. He eventually went over to the ‘dark side’ and became an administrator, serving as president of New Mexico State University. He has had three publishers and currently has two agents, which — in his opinion — is more than any author should have to deal with.”
In an email, Mike Orenduff wrote, “I did a signing at the (Roswell) Hastings store about 10 years ago, and Alice (Duncan) was the only person who bought one of my books. But my books have done a lot better in other places. Two of the books in my Pot Thief series have won New Mexico Book of the Year in the mystery category. The ninth book in the series is currently circulating in advanced reader format.”
This newest book, “The Pot Thief Who Studied the Woman at Otowi Crossing,” will be published in September.
Orenduff not only has Roswell author Alice Duncan as a fan, Anne Hillerman, author of “Spider Woman’s Daughter,” wrote about his first books, “An Albuquerque pottery dealer looking for artifacts finds murder and intrigue in this ‘smartly funny’ series.”
The first installments of the series is, “The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras.” Main character of the book is Hubert “Hubie” Schuze, a dealer in ancient Native American pottery. The U.S. government considers him a thief, Hubie considers himself a savior of New Mexico artwork that is lost in public land. In the first book, Hubie accepts a large amount of money to “lift” a rare pot from a local museum. Unfortunately, he finds out that the pot is too well guarded, so he gives up on the project, only to find out that somebody else took it. Now Hubie’s hunting the thief — and he tries to escape from a killer.
Orenduff’s books are available at the usual book dealers and online as eBooks.