During this frigid season, I find it’s easy to fall prey to “winter eating”, what I classify as the satisfying habit of loading myself up with lovely carbohydrates like homemade pizzas, pasta tossed with meaty ragu sauce and a flurry of grated parmesean, chickens roasted on top of little potatoes that can luxuriate in the drippings, and ribs slowly braised in wine until the meat falls off the bone…you get the idea. Basically the opposite of “spa cooking”, and more like what a bear eats before he enters his den for to hibernate. These stick-to-the ribs dishes really do warm the body and soul when your environment has turned icy and raw: When you have lost yet another glove, scraped yet another car of it’s glacial crust, and piled on yet another wooly sweater. In the midst of winter survival, hibernation cooking seems like the least you can do for yourself.
But like everything in life, there needs to be a balance, yes? No one wants to wake up one day in April and resemble a mama grizzly. So in the midst of this hearty binging I find myself craving citrus. Bright flavors and colors that burst on the tongue and wake-up the senses. For a quick fix I can always squeeze one of my beloved pink grapefruits for a shot of sunshine. If I have a bit more time though, I will make a citrus salad. This is something new to me because assembling a salad of citrus wedges (which normally requires that you “supreme” the fruit, removing the juicy flesh as a whole from the skins that surround it) seemed very chef-y and busy and something a spa-cookbook would have you do like you have the time to go supreming things. Finally though, my craving overwhelmed my prejudices, and since there’s no where around me serving up a delightful citrus salad, I decided it was time to make it myself.
My first step was to gather a selection of different citrus (and side note: the citrus has been really top-notch this year, at least in my neck of the woods, how about you?). I like to have on hand the following: pink grapefruit, navel oranges, and tangerines.
You can remove the flesh the traditional way by cutting off the rind and white pith around the fruit, then slicing the juicy segments away from the aforementioned skin. If you’d like a visual how-to HERE is a good video to watch. Make sure your knife is sharp (it will be safer than using a dull knife) and to go carefully. In the video, the dude holds the orange in his hand to carve out the segments, but unless you’re very confident with your knife skills, I suggest placing it on the table and holding it in place with your hand while carving out the segments. When you’re done, make sure you reserve the juice squeezed from the leftover pith/skins to make your vinaigrette.
RECIPE for WINTER CITRUS SALAD
To dress my salad: I take the leftover juice, place it in a bowl or clean jam jar and add the same amount of apple cider or white wine vinegar. I then add grapeseed oil (I like grapeseed versus olive oil because it doesn’t change the flavor of the fruit; use the same amount as you already have in the bowl of the juice and vinegar, so 2-2 ratio), a bit of agave or honey, salt and pepper. Stir or shake vigorously. Taste for seasonings.
To assemble the salad I place the wedges prettily on a plate and then use a benriner to shave some fennel on top (it’s a nice touch flavor and texture-wise, but optional if you THINK you’re not a fan…hint…hint). I then chop some of the fennel fronds and sprinkle them on top. I’ve seen people add shaved cheese like ricotta salata or manchego to their citrus salads. I’m sure this is a delicious addition, but it also feels like gilding the lily a bit when the point of the salad is to enjoy the clean, bright, tart flavors. But do as you like!
Lastly I add the dressing on top–no stirring or tossing because you don’t want your citrus wedges to fall apart! Just drizzle the dressing right on top. I happened to have a jar of KEEPERS chimichurri (you can find a recipe HERE) in the fridge so I added this to the plate as well. Again, not necessary at all, but the herbal flavors were a surprisingly lovely compliment. If you have a loaf of good bread handy then you’ll want a slice or two for soaking up any leftover dressing on the plate, which is too good to waste.
Enjoy and stay warm!!