Thursday, January 26, 2012

Celery and Citrus Salad

This just in: Citrus Fruits Save Winter! As much as I love the rutabaga, it just doesn’t bring as much hope and light into the kitchen as a bowl of brightly colored, juicy citrus fruits. And it’s not just lemons and oranges anymore.

Take this salad, for instance. It’s my lazy interpretation of the “Clemenquat Salad” in the fabulous book Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson (also the author of the blog 101 Cookbooks). As you might guess from its whimsical name, this salad is loaded with clementines and kumquats. It also gets a hefty crunch from a base of sliced celery and some walnuts. Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese balances the tart acidity with some salty nuttiness as well.

While this recipe comes from Super Natural Cooking, the inspiration to try it comes from my determination to eat kumquats this year. (I know. Aim high!) I knew the local co-op carried them in the winter and I kept my eyes peeled for them when I read this recipe. I can’t remember when I last ate a kumquat, which is kind of like eating a teeny tiny orange whole, but I do remember thinking they were fabulous, if a bit weird. Their pulp and juice tend to be quite sour and have a flavor that’s similar to those of oranges and tangerines, but with the kumquat’s own unique character. The peel is faintly bitter, but I find it milder than other citrus peels, and it complements and quiets the strong flavor of the pulp.

Thinly slicing little kumquats is a bit of a labor of love, but they made this salad so uniquely delicious, it was worth the effort. I followed the suggestion in the original recipe to use a serrated knife and that worked well. I added a bit of honey to the dressing to tame the overall tartness of the fruit just a bit, but this is still a pleasantly sour citrus salad. Since I rarely eat green salads in the winter, and can only take so many winter vegetable slaws I think I’ll find this perky dish a welcome addition to my winter dinner table.

Celery and Citrus Salad with Walnuts and Parmesan
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

½ cup chopped walnuts
3 clementines
10 kumquats
4 large celery ribs
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (a few grinds from a pepper mill)
about ¼ cup coarsely-shaved Parmesan cheese

1. Place the walnuts in a small skillet and heat over medium-low heat until just beginning to brown. Remove from heat and cool completely.

2. Peel the clementines and separate the sections. Cut the sections in half crosswise and place them in a medium-size bowl. Thinly slice the kumquats (a serrated knife works well for this), removing any seeds as you go. Add to the clementines in the bowl.

3. Remove any large strings from the outer surface of the celery ribs. Slice the celery very thinly on a diagonal. Add the celery to the clementines and kumquats.

4. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk together until smooth and emulsified. Pour over the citrus and celery in the bowl. Toss very gently to coat. Gently stir in the Parmesan shavings and cooled walnuts.

Makes about 4 side-dish servings.

One year ago: French Toast Casserole with Cardamom and Pears

Two years ago: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and Pasta with Sqash Puree and Blue Cheese Sauce

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