My favorite food group is fruit, and citruses are probably my favorite fruit group. While the fruit world never fails to delight, I think we need their effervescence most this time of the year. Their brightness counterbalances the season’s otherwise drab palette (which a visit to the farmer’s market demonstrates with rows and rows of… potatoes), and I could eat them endlessly.
If there’s one time where I truly feel food is too beautiful to eat, it’s now.
I am newly but officially in love with Cara Cara oranges. You would never guess that such an ordinary exterior gives way to the most vividly orange interior. And they taste so perfect, as sweet as can be. Blood oranges are pretty rad themselves. Their brilliant flesh intensifies any salad, flashes of ruby red and very showy. And meyer lemons, well, given this blog’s name, I think it’s pretty clear where I stand on lemons.
Unfortunately, they’re not very easy to come by here in New York. But that fact only makes them dearer. In fact, I think the overall inaccessibility of fruit has only emphasized just how important they are to me.
This salad is exactly what you should be eating now. We’re all coming out of the previous year feeling slightly shameful of our holiday excess, with renewed vows to eat thoughtfully and healthily. It’s like citruses came along just in time to save the day.
To keep this from being a fruit salad, by which I mean inherently sweet, there’s a fried rosemary and olive topping that adds just the right note of bitterness. I also decided to put everything over a bed of arugula and generously sprinkle sea salt on top, which heightens this salad’s savory nature. And with the addition Meyer lemon, I believe we cover all of the basic tastes: bitterness, sweetness, sourness, and saltiness. (Don’t mention umami, okay? Unless you want to throw in some mushrooms and call it a day.)
I’ll leave you with this quote from The Shipping News. I think it pretty much sums up my spirit:
“Suddenly he could see his father, see the trail of ground cherry husks leading from the garden around the edge of the lawn where he walked while he ate them. The man had a passion for fruit. Quoyle remembered purple-brown seckle pears the size and shape of figs, his father taking the meat off with pecking bites, the smell of fruit in their house, litter of cores and peels in the ashtrays, the grape cluster skeletons, peach stones like hens’ brains on the windowsill, the glove of banana peel on the car dashboard. In the sawdust on the basement workbench galaxies of seeds and pits, cherry stones, long white date pits like spaceships. Strawberries in the refrigerator, and in June the car parked on a country road and the father on his knees picking wild strawberries in the weeds. The hollowed grapefruit skullcaps, cracked globes of tangerine peel.”
CITRUS SALAD WITH ROSEMARY AND OLIVES
From Bon Appétit
Serves 3 to 4
2 3-inch sprigs of rosemary
5 pitted, oil-cured black olives
2 cara cara oranges
2 blood oranges
1 meyer lemon
extra virgin olive oil
freshly-ground black pepper
a handful of arugula per person
Pour vegetable oil into a small heavy saucepan to a depth of 1/2-inch and turn on stove to medium. Using a deep-fry thermometer, heat the oil until it reaches 350 degrees F. Add the rosemary sprigs to oil and fry until crisp and bright green, 10 to 15 seconds. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and season lightly with kosher salt. Add 10 pitted oil-cured black olives to oil; fry until bubbling stops, about 4 minutes. Place on plate with rosemary. Strip rosemary leaves from sprigs; mince. Chop olives.
Using a small, sharp knife, cut peel and white pith from the oranges and lemon. Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds.
Put a bed of arugula on a serving plate. Arrange the citruses over. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle chopped rosemary and olives over oranges.