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Posts Tagged ‘avocado’

I never was an orange-eater.  Sure, I’d eat them, but I wouldn’t seek them out.  They just didn’t thrill me.  But have you ever had a spectacular orange?  Unbelievably sweet, with enough acid to balance it out and absolutely full of flavor?  Well, let me tell you somethin’- you’re in for a real treat when you do.

We are in the height of citrus season right now.  So please, don’t buy raspberries or strawberries or blueberries right now.  Buy citrus! Explore the huge variety of citrus that is available right now…Navel oranges, blood oranges, cara cara oranges, pomelo, oro blanco grapefruit, kumquats, Meyer lemons, and soooo many more.

Wandering through the Marin Farmer’s Market two weeks ago, I came upon a farm which grows tons of heirloom citrus.  Bergamot, yuzu limes, sweet yellow limes, and so many more.  It was fun to peruse.

But I must say, I’m still not too interested in peeling an orange and just eating it out of hand.  But I’ll tell you what I discovered.  Olive oil changes everything. I can’t get enough of this: sliced oranges on a plate, dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a splash of red wine vinegar.  We’ve been serving some variation of this salad at the restaurant for the past few weeks and it’s a hit with everybody.  My favorite version includes avocado (though my avocado obsession can rightly be blamed on other things**).  Other yummy additions are arugula leaves, chervil, cilantro, black pepper, chili flake, thinly sliced red onions, and fennel.  But don’t stop there- there are a million additions that would be delish.

It would be pointless to supply a recipe for this salad.  It couldn’t be easier.  But what I will do is give you instructions for peeling a piece of citrus with a knife.  Here’s how it goes.  If you’re peeling a smallish piece of fruit, use a small paring knife.  For a larger piece, like grapefruit, use a larger chef’s knife.  Trim both the stem-end and flower-end of the citrus so that you barely cut into the flesh of the fruit.  If your first trimming only cuts into the white pith, trim it again, a little farther in so that you get into the flesh of the citrus.  Now, turn the citrus onto one of the cut ends.  Using your sharp knife, slice down in a bulging vertical motion to slice off a slab of the rind.  (Note that you must use a bulging vertical motion because your citrus is round, not flat!)  The point here, is to remove all the rind and white pith, leaving behind the flesh of the fruit.  If you accidentally leave some of the white pith behind, go back and trim it again- you’ll get better as you go.  Now, turn the citrus slightly and make your next cut from top to bottom as you did with the previous cut.  Turn the citrus and do it again.  Continue along these lines until your whole citrus is peeled.  Tada!  Do you have a strangely-shaped, no-longer-oblong piece of fruit?  Don’t worry- the more you practice, the better you’ll get- it’s a difficult task! (That being said, I worked for a chef once, who told me that she used to have new cooks peel citrus in this way during their try-out to assess their knife skills!  Yikes!)

So, as you can see, I used blood-oranges in my yummy little salad (aren’t blood oranges gorgeous?) (and by the way, there are quite a few varieties of blood-oranges, all with slightly different flavors, acid levels and striations of color). But you can use any variety of citrus you want. Yum!

**So, maybe I am obsessed with certain foods during pregnancy- like avocado, yogurt, and spicy tomato sauce.  But I didn’t think I had any strange cravings until Scott asked me what I had for lunch yesterday.  “Romaine salad with toasted almonds, shallot-vinaigrette, and tomato sauce”, I replied.   “Like, just cold tomato sauce stirred into your salad?” he asked incredulously…”Um… yeah.?  Why?  Does that sound weird to you?”  He didn’t respond because he was laughing too hard.

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I like to refer to this as “the roasted carrot salad” even though carrots are not, by any means, the main ingredient.  But they are my favorite ingredient, and I’m totally smitten with them.  The deal is this…I love the idea of carrots, but I’ve never really been a big carrot eater.  Raw carrots, sure.  Pickled carrots, heck ya.  But cooked carrots, plain, in just butter.  Ehh, not so much.  Then I happened upon this fun little method and I fell in love.  Shall I say it again?  Love, I tell you.  It all started with Mister Jamie (Oliver, that is).  I know, I know, that’s two Jamie inspired dinners back to back, but what can I say?  (I may have fallen in love with him too…)  Eh hem.  Back to the carrots.

Versatile Dinner Salad

So I took those bee-u-tiful carrots that I pulled from the garden, peeled them, and cut them into halves and quarters, lengthwise.  Threw them in a shallow sauce pan, and barely covered them with salted water.  Brought the water to a simmer, and cooked them at a gentle simmer until they were just done, with a little tooth left.  Meanwhile, I had prepared a high acid vinaigrette using equal parts vinegar (sherry and red wine) and extra-virgin olive oil.  Into the vinaigrette, I threw a small pinch of crushed cumin, a small pinch of crushed caraway, a bit of chili flake, and a few leaves of chopped mint.  (Of course when I say “pinch”, I’m referring to my own little hands, so you crazy big-handed folk may want to scale back a bit!)

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There’s that vinaigrette just longing for those hot, simmered carrots to bathe in it.  Let the hot carrots hang out in the vinaigrette for about 10 minutes so they really soak up the flavor.  Then I pulled the carrots out of the vinaigrette, threw them into a pan, and put them under the broiler until they were slightly charred and roasty-looking.

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When they were done, I just pulled ’em out of the oven and let them cool while I put the rest of the salad together.

P5180028I used “little gem” lettuces, which is an heirloom cross of romaine and butter lettuce, but don’t think of this “salad” as being mostly lettuce.  All the other stuff played principle roles.  I threw in a little sliced spring onion that I macerated in some of that carrot vinaigrette while the carrots were roasting in the oven.  Avocado is a must in this salad if you ask me, and then I tossed in some rice.  Oh,…and those lovely beets.  I flaked in some tuna, right out of the can, and tossed it all with a little more olive oil.  You may find that you need more vinaigrette, depending upon how much you made in the first place…taste it and decide.  And you’ll likely need a pinch of salt too.

P5180035You know when you dig in to dinner sometimes, and you can’t even stop to talk about how good it is because you just keep stuffing it in?  Yup, that’s what happened.

So the reason that this salad is so great, is that it’s built using categories.  The lettuce/ greens, the starch, the protein…

I use whatever lettuce I can find at the farmer’s market.  Arugula, frisee, chicories…

We often use left-over shredded chicken as our protein, but tuna or even hard-cooked eggs, sliced into wedges are great too.

And for the starch, you can really go crazy.

  • Beans
  • Rice (red, white black, brown, wild)…so many possibilities
  • lentils (a true favorite)
  • staled bread croutons, tossed in oil and toasted in the oven ’til golden
  • left-over potatoes, cut into chunks and tossed in
  • farro, quinoa or other grains

And as I said before, we always use avocado.  Seriously.  It’s a must.

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