Citrus. I Need It. You Need It. Let’s Eat It.
WE ARE LIVING THROUGH TERRIBLE, DEPRESSING TIMES. It’s been, um, difficult this week. My God. Who can focus? Not me. (I left the freezer door open and got in the tub. I left the back car windows rolled down when I went for a run at my trail. Then when I got to the grocery store, I realized I left my list at home. After I shopped and was standing at the register, I realized I’d left my credit card in the car.)
We all need some easy ways to make ourselves feel better, that are legal, and for me: eating citrus salad always works. So I’m delaying this week’s planned newsletter until next week and focusing on oranges.
Little composed salads of citrus are wonderful when you’re feeling lazy or when you feel like the world is ending tomorrow. They’re revitalizing. Especially if they follow something cozy and substantial, like a nice beef stew (this is my favorite, from the late great food writer Molly O’Neill; if you can’t access it, try this) or this unbelievably fabulous dish of broiled chicken thighs with New Mexican Hatch green chile over creamy grits, which I’ve been making for years and years. It is worth every minute of time you spend making it.
But the salads! You simply arrange a few chilled slices of citrus on a plate like glorious rays of sunshine, using whatever artistic skills you have, then jazz them up with complementary flavors and colors from your pantry and fridge. Devour them—while marveling at the magnificent beauty of oranges, lemons, and grapefruits and wondering how in the world you stopped noticing them the same way you do flowers.
Molasses dressing: so good with oranges!
If you do what I do, which is peel and slice or supreme them right when you get home, then put them in Tupperware and squeeze every last drop of juice from the peels all over them, you can indeed have these salads every day. When things are back to normal you can trot them out as easy last-minute salads for a dinner party.
Some notes: If you don’t know how to properly peel and supreme oranges, you should definitely learn. It’s fun. Try this video from Williams-Sonoma. However, for these recipes I’m offering today, I’m not cutting my fruit into the pretty segments, which I use in the Green Salad with Grapefruit and Avocado from Issue #4. Instead, I’ve sliced them into thin rounds (you can make them as thick or as thin as you like) and used them as the core ingredient of each salad. So make sure you remove ALL THE PITH. The Williams-Sonoma lady in the video does a bad job of this, but I still like her. You can do a little dressing for all of these, or you can simply drizzle them with oil (olive, walnut, etc.) and acid (lemon, vinegar, or the fruit’s own juices) plus flaky salt. You can embellish them more, with herbs and spices, but they don’t really need it. Play around!
Fennel is your winter friend
And please also note: all of these would be wonderful converted into/added to a big green salad. Slice the rounds in half though, before tossing with your favorite greens and a bit more dressing here.
Now: Go buy your citrus with joy! Cara Cara oranges, blood oranges, grapefruit, and navel oranges are readily available to me here in the sticks, so no excuses. I even found persimmons and pomegranates.
RECIPE: Emily's Easy Orange Salad
I’ve been making this salad since I was a toddler. (Not really; I was in my thirties.) And since that time, I have discovered that it is also really really really good with green or black olives (buy something good; oil cured are fantastic), chopped, in place of the pomegranate seeds. Just leave the molasses out of the dressing.
2 shallots, very thinly sliced, separated into rings
raspberry vinegar (or balsamic, or red wine vinegar)
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (you’ll find this at the bottom of your sliced oranges in the Tupperware)
1 1/2 tablespoons molasses (I've also used Maple syrup, but molasses gives it a murky caramelly thing I love)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (I’ve used raspberry balsamic here, too: kapow!)
pinch of cayenne or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (this is semi-optional; if you make it to accompany the Green Chile Chicken Thighs, leave it out)
1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
4 large seedless oranges, peeled, all pith removed, cut into thin rounds
1 cup pomegranate seeds
Slice the shallots thinly. Pour raspberry vinegar over to cover and soak for an hour or more in the fridge while you’re making the rest of your dinner. (I usually do this overnight. You can also use the red wine vinegar or balsamic if you can’t find raspberry vinegar.)
In a jar, place olive oil, orange juice, molasses, vinegar, cayenne, salt, pepper. Screw on lid and shake until well emulsified; it takes a bit longer to get the molasses incorporated, so don’t stop.
When you are ready to serve your salad, divide orange slices artistically among four salad plates (or do one large platter), top with the pickled shallots, and sprinkle prettily with the pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with some of the dressing. Finish with flaky sea salt.
RECIPE: James Beard’s Moroccan Orange and Radish Salad (Shlada Dyal Fejjel ou Lichine)
I found Alice Waters’ version of this salad, and since it’s a Moroccan dish she incorporates a bit of cinnamon in the dressing (and orange flower water but: I’d have to order it online). I did it both ways. If you want to add the cinnamon (it’s delicious!) simply add a small pinch of to the lemon-sugar-salt mixture and shake again. I divided the dressing into two jars before doing this so I could use the plain version in another dressing later.
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large oranges (you can do a mix; I’ve used Cara Cara and Navel), peeled, pith completely removed, sliced into rounds and chilled.
1 bunch red radishes, grated and chilled (or sliced into very thin matchsticks like I did; pretty!)
Combine lemon juice, sugar, and salt in a bowl and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Chill thoroughly.
When ready to serve, simply arrange the oranges on a serving dish or on individual plates, top with a pretty pile of radish, and drizzle with the dressing. You can grate a bit of orange zest on top and finish with the tiniest bit flaky sea salt if you like—but that salt might be best left to individual diners.
RECIPE: An Insanely Simple Orange and Fennel Salad with Smoked Trout
This doesn’t really need a dressing, but feel free to shake up an olive oil and lemon one in a jar, at a 3-1 oil/acid ratio.
4 large oranges (you can do a mix; I’ve used Cara Cara and navel), peeled, pith completely removed, and sliced into rounds and chilled.
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, thinly sliced, chilled (I used my scary mandoline; I did this for YOU.)
8 ounces smoked trout, broken up
2-3 tablespoons olive oil for drizzling,
Flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fennel fronds, chopped, for garnish
Arrange the oranges on a platter, top with fennel slices, then the trout. Drizzle with olive oil. Squeeze a little lemon all over. Shower with a bit of salt and as much pepper as you like. Decorate with chopped fennel fronds.
RECIPE: Emily’s Persimmon and Orange Salad with Walnuts
I have nothing to say about this gorgeous thing, except: I would gladly eat it three meals a day, every day.
3 tablespoons walnut oil
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 shallot, chopped finely and soaked in raspberry vinegar for at least an hour
4 large oranges (you can do a mix), peeled, pith completely removed, and sliced into rounds and chilled
1 large Fuyu persimmon (don’t use Hachiya!), peeled, cut in half, and thinly sliced into half-moons and chilled
1 cup broken walnut pieces
1 small head radicchio, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced/shredded
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
In a jar, place the first three ingredients and shake until emulsified. Season with salt.
Arrange on a large platter, in this order: oranges, persimmon, walnuts, pickled shallot. Surround with radicchio. Drizzle all over with dressing. Season with a very very very light shower of the salt and pepper. Bring the platter to the table like this, so everyone can be wowed. Then go back into the kitchen and make a mess of it by tossing it if you want to.
NEXT WEEK: In the Chef Salad Column, we talk about Turkey—the country—and salad with the wonderful Robyn Eckhardt). Thanks for reading. See you next week! And if you feel like sharing the Department of Salad: Official Bulletin with people who deserve it, do so here: