| Los Angeles Times
There are people who eat fruit as a snack, and then there’s me. It’s not that I haven’t tried. Currently, as I stock up on fruit from the farmers market, I have grand visions of reaching for an orange from the fruit bowl, peeling it with my hands, then enjoying the juicy pops of the sections as I eat them. Healthy! Refreshing! “Mother Nature’s candy,” I’ve even heard, clenching my smile to stave off an eye roll. It should be so easy, but I can never commit.
Inevitably, I reach for a piece of cake or chips instead (don’t worry, I balance my diet in other ways) and have at this point in my life overcome the guilt that used to accompany that.
No, I love fruit best when it’s cooked down into a sweet jam or marmalade, baked under a bubbling biscuit crust or even blended into ice cream or sorbet. Influenced by a Southern upbringing, my predilection for eating fruit coated in sugar and butter is a difficult habit to break.
However, the one time I will happily eat fruit in a raw-ish state is citrus season. All those sweet oranges — Cara Caras, page and kishu mandarins and tangerines — are too wonderful to tarnish by cooking. Instead of eating them out of hand, though, I put in the smallest bit of effort and turn them into a salad. But there are no lettuce leaves or other vegetables in this salad to distract from the star ingredients. It’s just cold citrus slices, seasoned with a simple vinaigrette and garnished with a few salty toppings to balance all that sweetness.
On a platter, I layer slices of at least three different sweet orange citrus: something large like Cara Caras or organic navels, something small like kishus, and then always blood oranges for their deep ruby color. Then, I mix up a tame rice vinegar dressing enhanced with some of the citrus zest and a pinch of chile flakes to spoon over the top, absorbing into their membranes and mingling with their juices. The vinaigrette makes the oranges taste, um, orange-ier!
Paper-thin slices of celery add crunchy salinity, while crumbles of feta offer a creamy, condensed brine, and torn Castelvetrano olives provide a pop of fatty brackishness. This trio of salty garnishes balances the sweet citrus perfectly, turning them into something one step removed from raw but exponentially more fun to eat.
COLD AND SALTY ORANGE SALAD
Time: 20 minutes, plus 1 hour unattended
Yields: Serves 2 to 4
Any sweet orange citrus shines in this simple salad, which is more of a treatment than an actual recipe. Navels, Cara Caras, tangerines, Page or Daisy mandarins, Kishus and blood oranges fit the bill, particularly blood oranges since their deep red flesh and stripes add colorful contrast. The vinaigrette concentrates their flavor with more zest and a shot of mild rice vinegar to add an unobtrusive acidity. Use any kind of chile flakes you like for a spicier, or milder, heat.
1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) mixed orange citrus (see note above)
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 inner stalk of celery, thinly sliced
1 ounce (28 grams) feta, preferably in brine
4 green olives, preferably Castelvetrano, pitted and torn into 3 to 4 pieces
1. Take one of the smaller orange citruses and, using a Microplane, finely grate the zest from half of it into a small bowl. Stir in the vinegar, olive oil and chile flakes, then season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
2. Working on a cutting board, remove the pith and peel from all the citrus. For citrus bigger than a tennis ball, cut between the membranes to free its wedge-like sections. For smaller citrus, simply slice across the sections to make thin rounds, about ¼-inch-thick, removing any seeds as you go. Transfer all the sliced citrus and juices to a serving platter big enough to fit them in a single-ish layer and preferably one with a lip to contain their juice. Spoon the vinaigrette over the slices.
3. Arrange the celery slices evenly over the citrus. If your feta comes with brine, drizzle a couple teaspoons of the brine over the salad. Roughly crumble the feta and arrange it over the salad, followed by the olives. Cover the whole salad with a sheet of plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
4. Uncover the salad and serve chilled. This is great as a side to salmon fillets, roast chicken thighs or sliced duck breast.
Make Ahead: The assembled salad, covered in plastic wrap, will hold in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Our special thanks to:detroitnews.com