Is it just me or does anyone else feel like holidays seem to suddenly jump out of nowhere? I’m positive that yesterday we were still about a month away from Easter…there was plenty of time to think about it…make Brunch/dinner plans, decide whether to dye easter eggs and how to do it (I’ve always wanted to give a class on using food items as natural dyes…just never seem to find the time to test out the various ideas) as well as figure out just how to set and stage the buffet and table.
Well folks…EASTER IS TOMORRROW! By this time it’s getting a bit late to give any of that any thought worth thinking. I myself have been invited by friends to their family egg hunt and dinner and hopefully am not the only one who is thinking…”What should I take?”
I love “Potlucks”! But I’m going to let you in on a secret….as a chef, I find them to be very tricky waters to maneuver. If you’re the everyday person you can show up with your favorite jello salad or homestyle cake. If a chef does that then everyone says “Oh….we thought you’d bring some fancy creation!”. A sense of shame comes over you as you hear the disappointment in their voices. On the other hand, if the chef shows up with something that is a bit more involved, then comes the other extreme comment “Oh sure…make the rest of us look bad by bringing something fancy!”.
My point? There’s just no winning so make what you like, what you have time for and as long as it tastes good….don’t worry about what others might say! (As for me… I’ll probably make the decision once I get to the store tonight after work!)
Salads are a great item because they are generally quick to prepare, can be quite versatile (anyone can serve a green salad…be more creative than that!), and easily adapt to various seasons.
Last month in my “Food Fix” column of Coastal Senior I wrote about seasonal citrus and shared this recipe for a fennel and citrus salad. If you can still find blood oranges in your market they make for a striking presentation and added flavor. If not, or you don’t have time to hunt them down, simply use regular oranges and pink grapefruit! If you don’t have orange flower water on hand, simply use additional fresh orange juice in the dressing. The fennel adds a great fresh flavor perfect for a bright spring day! If you’re not a fan of the licorice taste of fennel then simply leave it out.
Citrus & Fennel Salad with Orange Blossom Vinaigrette
At first glance this might seem like an odd combination. Versions of this salad are frequently found throughout the mid-east and eastern Mediterranean region. I recommend using a variety of citrus fruits such as Blood oranges, pink grapefruit, Meyer lemons, and standard oranges for the most attractive color and flavor.
Yield: 8 Servings
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon orange flower water*
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced cilantro
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 oranges or other citrus
½ red onion, finely diced
½ head fennel, thinly sliced lengthwise
6-8 Kalamata olives, pitted and split in half
In a small mixing bowl, combine orange juice, orange flower water, salt, pepper, garlic and cilantro. Whisk well to blend and to dissolve salt and disperse flavors throughout. Using a whisk, slowly drizzle in olive oil while vigorously whisking in a zig-zag pattern to help emulsify the dressing. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. When satisfied with seasoning, set aside at room temperature while preparing salad.
Cut the end off of each orange to expose the flesh. Place each orange on the cut side. Using a chef’s or boning knife, place the knife at an angle so the sharp side is facing the point where the flesh and the white pith meet. Using a sawing motion, cut around the orange and follow its curvature until you’ve removed the skin from top to bottom and have exposed the flesh. Continue in this manner around the entire orange. Trim the skin from all oranges. Once oranges are peeled, place on their side and cut into “wagonwheel” style slices. Arrange slices on a large plate or small platter in an overlapping circular formation. Scatter diced red onion and sliced fennel over the top of oranges. Stir salad dressing and drizzle over the top of oranges and onions. Scatter Kalamata olive pieces over the salad to garnish.
*Available in mid-eastern markets/delis or specialty food stores. Mid-eastern brands are more delicate than European which tend to be orange oil blended with distilled water and alcohol.
For more color and flavor oranges can be layered on top of a bed of arugula to add a touch of green and a spicy note to the salad.
Garnish the salad with cilantro leaves, sliced radishes, or pomegranate seeds instead of, or in addition to the Kalamata olives.