Two Orange Salads Against Winter Blues

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My appreciation of citrus fruit came not because of its taste but rather its aroma. As a child I shied away from acidic flavors and even the sprinkling of sugar over the orange slices my mother would prepare did not endear me to their sting of tartness. It was not until I started helping in the kitchen that I discovered the fragrant excitement of citrus zest. A grating of lemon peel over grilled chicken uplifted a familiar dish. Candied orange peels folded into oatmeal made my daily breakfast more memorable. Slowly I grew to love the acidity and to welcome the way it made other flavors shimmer. As I explored more, I discovered the pleasant bitter taste of pomelo, the floral richness of mandarins, the sultry complexity of Seville oranges and the piney sweetness of kumquats. Thanks to the constant development of new hybrids, the citrus family is large and varied, so I can make up for the years of shunning oranges as a kid.

These days the winter markets offer nothing more than root vegetables and apples from cold storage, but the citrus season is one of the pleasures of winter in our parts. It is easy to build a delicious dinner around their zesty flavors. A dash of lemon juice brightens the taste of most winter vegetables. A simple cream of broccoli soup tastes fresh and vibrant with the green sharpness of lime softening its heavier aromas. Baked salmon wrapped in paper thin orange slices, under which I like to hide a few slivers of garlic and a sprig of thyme, tastes like something that should cost $30 at a fancy restaurant. Chocolate mousse whipped with mandarin or bitter orange juice gains a pleasant tart top note and a lingering floral aftertaste.

My favorite way to enjoy a perfect citrus fruit is to eat it fresh. Today I would like to share two simple recipes for orange salads. In the first preparation, the sweetness of orange is heightened by bitter greens, with fennel providing a spicy-sweet contrast to orange’s floral tartness. In the second, the Moroccan flavorings of cinnamon and orange flower water present the familiar taste of orange in a vibrant guise. The piney, resinous flavor of pistachio lends a rich complexity to this simple preparation. Enjoy!

IMG_8327wintersalad

Bitter Greens, Fennel and Orange Salad

Ingredients

2-3 oranges
2c bitter greens such as arugula, endive, radicchio or spinach
1 fennel bulb
salt, pepper
Olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice

Instructions

Slice off a thin piece at the top and bottom of each orange. Stand it upright and peel the fruit by remove the zest and the bitter white part underneath. When you are done, you should have an orange orb, minus its peel. It might take a few trials to get the hang of this technique, but it is a good, time-efficient trick to know. Now, you can slice the orange in rounds or in quarters.

Wash your bitter greens and tear in small pieces. Trim the fennel bulb and remove the outer parts if they look overly thick or discolored. Slice thinly. Toss with lemon juice to prevent discoloration and to highlight the bright flavor of fennel.

Mix the ingredients for the vinaigrette: olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss gently with all of the salad components and serve immediately.

IMG_8247orangepistachiocinnamonsalad

Moroccan-style Orange Salad with Cinnamon and Pistachios

Ingredients

4 oranges
2 tsp sugar or to taste
1 tsp orange flower water
¼ tsp cinnamon
Chopped pistachios for garnish

Instructions

Peel oranges as explained in the first recipe. Set aside. Mix the rest of the ingredients, except for pistachios, and toss gently with oranges. Depending on the sweetness of your fruit, you might need more or less sugar. The dressing should taste sweet and fragrant. Marinate oranges at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. The salad can also be made in advance and refrigerated. Sprinkle liberally with pistachios before serving.

Enjoy!

Photography © Bois de Jasmin.

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22 Comments

  • Suzanna: Love your food posts, V.

    I live year-round in the citrus season and yet the use of it in cuisine is not commonplace, at least not in my neck of the woods.

    One easy way with citrus that I love is to simply squeeze lime over avocado (I also add a dash of salt) and eat as is. Also, lime squeezed into red curry is a powerful accent to the coconut and works well with shrimp, chicken, or beef.

    I am afraid that for years most oranges here went into a can. I’ve had a wander around Cross Creek, the old Kinnan Rawlings estate, and what remained of her citrus grove. She’d send her fruit to be packed in Citra, which is just down the road. I reached up and grabbed one of the wild oranges that now grows in the old grove–a woody, pulpy globe that was full of seeds.

    Am going to make both your second recipe here and try adding citrus to cream of broccoli soup as you suggest. February 10, 2012 at 8:36am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, it is so much fun to think of ways to use citrus. Often, the simplest dishes are the best.
    Lime over avocado sounds so good! One of my favorite breakfasts these days is a piece of toast, smeared with avocado and sprinkled with feta. In the summer, I add tomatoes, but these days they are too lackluster to bother with them.

    I remember talking to a friend who lives in FL about how she must get the best citrus in the world. She said that most citrus producers in her area grow oranges for the food industry. The wild orange zest must be very fragrant, no? February 10, 2012 at 8:53am Reply

  • marlena: That sounds delicious! I like the idea of adding cinnamon. I think the spiciness would give it such a zing. February 10, 2012 at 11:37am Reply

  • marlena: My husband is from Mexico and introduced me to the combination of lime, salt and chili on fruit. It’s also great with avocados. February 10, 2012 at 11:40am Reply

  • skilletlicker: My local market is brimming with blood oranges! Thank you!!! February 10, 2012 at 12:13pm Reply

  • Victoria: I love lime, chili powder and salt on papaya and mangoes. This combination seems to bring out the sweetness even more. February 10, 2012 at 12:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: It really does! Apple and cinnamon is a classical pairing, but orange and cinnamon is also fantastic. February 10, 2012 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Victoria: Blood oranges have a raspberry like nuance to me, so I sometimes make the Moroccan salad and add a handful of raspberries. Of course, it is a rare treat, because when blood oranges are great, raspberries are generally tasteless. February 10, 2012 at 12:28pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely post.
    I use more citrus and apples or pears in my salads in winter, as tomatoes and peppers are not very good now.
    For greens I use winter purslane ( Portulaca oleracea), which I found out is considered a weed in the USA. It tastes rather similar to corn salad but even better.
    I also use your trick of adding lemon or orange juice to cabbage, it just makes the cabbage more palatable. February 10, 2012 at 1:35pm Reply

  • Victoria: Your comment on purslane as weed made me laugh, because there is a farm where we go time to time to pick apples and berries. It is an organic farm, so purslane grows everywhere. I asked the owner if I could pick it, and she was delighted that someone would weed her garden for free. Unfortunately, it is only a summer green for us. I love it in a simple dip/salad–chopped up finely with onions, parsley, tomatoes and cucumbers (oil, lemon juice, garlic vinaigrette). Or cooked with onions and rice. It is very versatile, and I've even used it as a substitute for spinach in pie fillings.

    In the winter I also discover how much I love cabbage sauteed simply in oil, with garlic and chili flakes. And of course, just as you do, a squeeze of lemon juice. February 10, 2012 at 1:52pm Reply

  • Austenfan: And purslane is a delicacy over here! I prefer the winter variety, which has a taste more like corn salad. It’s Latin name is Claytonia Perfoliata. I prefer both varieties uncooked, and will try your recipe with the chopped parsley and onions. And yes you can easily use it as a spinach substitute. In Holland it is mostly sold by organic farms and the like.
    For my winter salads I use “flavoured” olive oil. I have mandarin, lemon and basil flavoured olive oil. The lemon one goes beautifully with citrus salads as does the mandarin one. I get mine from Olivier et Co, but I have seen it sold by other companies.
    I don’t use chili a lot. My stomach is not very robust handling strong spices. February 10, 2012 at 3:24pm Reply

  • skilletlicker: Victoria, I haven’t had a good raspberry in ten years, and that includes the ones I found at the Santa Monica farmers markets for $6 a throw. It is so unpredictable where the good fruit comes from – the best peaches I’ve found in LA come from an inexpensive neighborhood franchise chain supermarket that you would never guess would sell exceptional fruit. And I know peaches, being from Georgia. February 10, 2012 at 4:06pm Reply

  • Victoria: It’s such hit or miss in this area too. Even at the best farmer’s market in NYC the peaches are not great. They are picked when they are green and then they just don’t ripen. We went peach picking a couple of times, but we gave up on that as well. Maybe, it is our East Coast climate or the peach variety, but even the tree ripened peaches were bland. February 10, 2012 at 4:12pm Reply

  • Victoria: You know, purslane is associated in my mind strongly with Middle Eastern cooking. I would never have guessed that it is used in Holland as well. In Ukraine, it was a grown as a fodder for animals, but further east in Armenia, Georgia Azerbaijan, Iran it is quite a delicacy. Plus, it is rich in omega-3.

    I should try the flavored oils from Olivier et Co. My previous experience was disappointing, because the olive oil itself was mediocre, and the brand simply tried embellishing it with citrus. Sometimes I make my own by grating citrus zest into the oil and letting it macerating. Such oil is best stored in the fridge, or it spoils very quickly. February 10, 2012 at 4:19pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I am quite pleased with the quality provided by O&Co. They don’t just sell these oils but plain high quality oils as well. Mind you they are quite expensive, but worth it, imho. February 10, 2012 at 4:27pm Reply

  • Victoria: I will definitely try them. There is a store not far from me, and I am always tempted by its beautiful display. February 10, 2012 at 5:47pm Reply

  • Penelope: There are beautiful blood oranges in the shops here in Italy, so I feel inspired by you to make a salad of radicchio, rucola and blood orange today. The colours and flavours should be wonderful ! February 11, 2012 at 8:42am Reply

  • Alexa Saunders: This would be a perfect time for a review of Citrus perfumes! Is that too broad a hint?
    Alexa February 11, 2012 at 11:20am Reply

  • Victoria: I hope that you will enjoy it! The combination is so complementary between the bitterness of arugula and the tartness of orange.

    Oh, how I envy you! Blood oranges are a rare treat for us. February 11, 2012 at 11:55am Reply

  • Victoria: 🙂 I will gladly review citrus perfumes! A couple of days ago someone asked for me to review Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine and my other favorite orange scents. I guess, in depth of winter we crave even a small reminder of summer. February 11, 2012 at 11:57am Reply

  • alyssa: Wearing Anne Pliska today for our cold snap, a perfect wintry combination of juicy mandarines and dry amber. And I still have a drawer full of citrus to use up from my own recent explorations, so am very glad to see this post. You have such a wonderful palate, V.

    I had to laugh about the purslane thread above. You know, I once read a letter from Nathaniel Hawthorne, I think it was, about the Transcendentalist commune attempted by Louisa May Alcott’s father. Everyone was full of high ideals but had no farming skills, so the first winter all they ate was purslane, purslane, purslane. And to think many chefs now treat it as a delicacy here in Austin… February 11, 2012 at 5:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: Mmmm, Anne Pliska is such a perfect comfort perfume. I wish I had some with me right now.

    I hope that you can try these combinations, if you haven't already. I love the combination of sweet and spicy or sweet and bitter.

    If I told my grandmother that I eat purslane, she would start laughing. Eating a weed, what an idea! Another one I love is lamb's quarters. During WWII my great grandmother survived on it alone, as many people did in the occupied areas. The idea of eating it voluntarily would be odd and unsettling to her. February 11, 2012 at 6:08pm Reply

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