Come January, the citrus season is underway. Grown in southern regions and shipped all the way to our grocery stores on the East Coast, citrus fruits bring a welcome brightness and freshness to our midwinter diets.
Moreover, there are many benefits to eating fresh citruses. One orange contains about 50mg of vitamin C (or 2/3 of our daily needs) and has high levels of antioxidants, which help slow the aging process and protect against serious illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and cancer, to name a few. Citrus fruits are also a great source of fiber and they are low in calories.
Not only do I love fresh orange juice for breakfast, but I venture to incorporate citruses in many of my recipes, whether sweet or savory. I garnish scrumptious salads with fresh slices of blood orange or grapefruit. I grate their flavorful zests to make a delicious vinaigrette or to perk up a pesto. I squeeze their juices to brighten up a soup or to make a silky, delicate Meyer lemon tart. Come to think of it, I use citrus fruits in my cooking almost every day.
Ultimately, the best part of the citrus season is that you will find unusual citruses suddenly piling up on the shelves of your local grocery. Look for sweet and floral Meyer lemons or tart Key limes. Venture to buy some blood oranges, Mineola tangelos or clementines, instead of the regular navel oranges and mandarins. Indulge in some beautiful kumquats and use them whole in a salad or poach them. Let this world of exotic flavors enliven your winter world right when you need it the most.
Arugula Salad with Fennel, Blood Oranges, Clementines and Olive Vinaigrette
active time: 30 min
For the vinaigrette
- 1 small shallot – finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (use microplane grater)
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (use microplane grater)
- 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped kalamata olives
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds – crushed in a mortar
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the salad
- 1 small fennel bulb
- 1 blood orange – peeled, halved and cut crosswise in 1/4” slices
- 1 clementine – peeled, halved and cut crosswise in 1/4” slices
- 2 large handfuls baby arugula – rinsed and spun dry
- Parmesan shavings as garnish (use vegetable hand-peeler)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fennel greens
- Step 1: Place the chopped shallot, vinegar, zests, juice, olives, fennel seeds, salt and pepper to taste, and oil in small bowl and whisk until well blended. Set aside.
- Step 2: Trim the stalks from the fennel bulb. Snip the greens from the stalks and save them for the salad below. Cut the fennel bulb in half. Using a mandoline, cut the fennel in paper-thin slices. Set aside in a bowl.
- Cook’s note: If you do not have a mandoline, you can use a vegetable hand-peeler. Cut the fennel bulb in quarters and shave the bulb starting right across the top and working your way down.
- Step 3: In a large bowl gently mix the arugula with the fennel. Divide equally in the center of four large plates. Garnish each salad with a few orange and clementine slices. Drizzle with the olive vinaigrette. Top each salad with some Parmesan shavings. Sprinkle with the chopped fennel greens and freshly ground pepper and serve immediately.
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Disclaimer: As always, my point of view is my own. I do not accept samples, and have no commercial relationship with any product, food or wine company.