Monday, January 31, 2011
Citrus Salad Sun
Easing into the snowy, slushy parking lot at Wegmans, the temperature at mid day is 10 degrees. The kids in the their snow suits squeeze into a double wide grocery cart. The store doors slide open at our approach. A blast of forced air hits our cold, pink noses. Rounding the corner, as I take off my gloves and hat, I gasp and involuntarily smile: before me, crate upon crate of every imaginable citrus gleaming, spilling, tumbling, beckoning.
"Orneeeees!" Coral announces. I have yet to correct her pronunciation on that, I love the way she says, or sings, "Oranges!"
In an instant I have a full sensory memory of a salad I had this time last year at Fanny's in Brooklyn, a citrus salad. I had ordered it twice and taken a picture, memorizing it with the goal of recreating it this year, and every year after. In that goal was a hope, hidden in the folds, that we would be home this year, cooking for ourselves. Last year we were eating out almost every night in Brooklyn or Manhattan as we navigated Colby's brain surgery.
From the savored memory of the Fanny's salad I chose two kinds of grapefruit, honey tangerines, mandarins and blood oranges. Also, parsley, red onions, green and black olives, and capers.
I knew from the Fanny's salad that it would be a lot of work removing all the skins and pith from each and every section while keeping the sections somewhat intact. The glorious pile of fruit towered in a bowl on the dining room table for two days while I mentally practiced how I would make and compose the salad. The scent of their skins perfumed the air and elicited fantasies of warmer climates.
I made a small version of the salad to test the recipe. The explosion of water, sugar and the brightness of the colors was a pleasant shock to my senses. Nothing growing here now has that concentration of sun. As I ate, I decided who I would invite to lunch and adjusted the dressing.
One of the fun things about salad is that you can tell almost everything about the balance of flavor and texture by looking at it. It is a visually satisfying way to cook, or compose. On the table, this salad inspires in me, in this climate in January, an absolute sense that Spring is rounding the corner. The earth is warming, from the inside first, slowly reaching the surface as meanwhile the angle of the sun lengthens. But before the golden light of spring fully returns, you can bring it inside your home with a platter of late winter citrus.
Grapefruit, honey tangerines, mandarins and blood oranges. Variety is key, you want a range of color, sweetness and acidity.
Parsley, red onions, green and black olives (I used Cerignola because I like their meaty texture, nice against the citrus,) and salt packed capers.
Red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper
Chop red onion and cover with red wine vinegar to soften.
Rinse salt packed capers and let stand in cold water for a few minutes.
Peel and section citrus.
Pit and cut olives into chunks.
Pinch of parsley leaves, cut only a little, the leaves look pretty on this salad.
Dress this salad lightly, and add salt to taste, the capers and olives add most of the salty taste you need. Pepper at last minute so you can really smell the pepper with the citrus.