This mid-winter salad has so many possibilities. Cara-cara oranges or ruby red grapefruit. Thinly sliced fennel bulbs or red bell peppers. Avocados if you have some. Leftover roasted beets. A bit of red onion.
Tonight's winter salad features ruby red grapefruit and fennel.
The sweet and spicy dressing makes the flavors of this salad sing. It's spiced up with chili powder and ground cumin, then mellowed down with honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I could eat this salad all year round, but it seems just right for now, when the citrus is plentiful and the tomatoes are scarce. Who needs a fresh tomato to make a great salad?
Soaking red onion slices in water will take away their bite.
My friend Casey taught me how to soak red onions in water, to mellow out their bite when used raw in a salad. Another one of Casey's tricks is to soak dried cranberries in some of the salad dressing you'll be using to toss a salad. This gives them more flavor, and makes them easier to chew. Smart girl, that Casey.
Casey with a perfectly prepared beef tenderloin. One of the best I've ever had.
A mandoline is a very handy tool to have when making a winter salad. I like my fennel and red onion sliced very thin, much thinner than I can get with a knife. At first I was afraid of my mandoline, with its razor-sharp blades. (As a surgeon, I was very protective of my hands). But with patience and practice, it has become one of my favorite kitchen tools.
Oh how I love my Oxo mandoline for slicing fennel bulbs.
This can be a weeknight salad, or something more special for company. Forage for the best oranges or grapefruit you can find. Cara-cara oranges are in season now, and widely available. A cross between a navel orange and a ruby red grapefruit, the cara-cara is not too sweet.
I used my Christmas grapefruit for tonight's salad, because that's what I had on hand. A crate of grapefruit is a wonderful gift indeed.
For a fancier salad, get some radicchio, butter lettuce and watercress. For a weeknight version, just use what you've got. Tonight I had a box of mixed greens in good shape, so that's what I used.
Use leftover cumin chili dressing later in the week to liven up a turkey sandwich with avocado slices and bitter greens. It will keep for weeks in the back of the refrigerator, ready for many variations of this impromptu winter salad.
Winter Salad with a Cumin Chili Dressing
This makes enough salad for 2-4 people, and enough dressing to double the recipe, if you choose.
For the salad:
- Mixed greens: butter lettuce, baby romaine, spring greens, watercress, radicchio torn into bite sized pieces
- 1/2 medium red onion, sliced very thin, and soaked in cold water
- 1 grapefruit or orange
- 1 fennel bulb
For the dressing:
- Wash the greens and dry in a salad spinner, or with a kitchen towel.
- Slice the onion very thin, and set aside to soak in a bowl of cold water.
- Cut the stem ends off the grapefruit or orange, then cut off the peel (see photo below). Slice as thinly as you can with a sharp knife (my mandoline doesn't seem to work for this).
- Cut the green stem from the fennel bulb, and set aside the fennel fronds. Slice the bulb in half, then into quarters. Remove the core. Cut the fennel bulb into very thin slices.
- 6 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, or red wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp. honey
- 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 3/4 tsp. chili powder
- generous pinch of salt
- juice from the citrus rinds
- Measure olive oil, vinegar, honey, cumin and chili powder into a jam jar.
- Add a generous pinch of sea salt.
- Squeeze the rinds from the cut-up orange or grapefruit into the dressing.
- Shake well.
Slice the peel from the fruit, but save the juicy rinds to squeeze into the dressing.
Local Wyoming honey is perfect for this dressing.
A generous pinch of salt....
Squeeze out the juice from the rinds.
Assemble the salad:
- Place the greens in a bowl or onto a platter.
- Scatter the fennel and red onion slices over.
- Place the sliced citrus on top, and garnish with fennel fronds.
- Toss with the cumin chili dressing at the table.
Pairs nicely with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Delicious alongside roasted chicken, or lamb chops, or Mexican food.
Are you ready for today's culinary word?
Colcannon: A delicious Irish peasant dish of milk- and butter-moistened mashed potatoes mixed with finely chopped cooked onions and kale or cabbage.
from The Deluxe Food Lovers' Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst