Citrus varieties inspire simple, seasonal salads

Citrus has been available in stores for a couple of months, as covered in December’s Season to Taste column. But citrus season really picked up speed within the past couple of weeks.

I wondered if some of the first fruits actually were new-crop, judging from their lack of aroma and slightly deflated shape. But the most recent specimens of grapefruits, tangelos and lemons that I’ve encountered are plump, smooth and emit a floral, astringent perfume — perfect for snacking or myriad uses in the kitchen.

When a food is this fresh, it can inspire the meal, most recently a simple salad that I tossed together with sliced savoy cabbage, tangelo sections, chunks of avocado and sesame seeds. Some grilled or poached poultry or seafood makes this a main dish.

The dressing couldn’t have been easier: a couple of tablespoons of red miso paste whisked with a tablespoon each of water, rice-wine vinegar and brown sugar, along with some fresh ginger and lemon-grass paste. Instead of vinegar, I could have used more citrus juice.

Of course, after I had written this week’s food-section story on oranges, our wire service came through with a new batch of tips and recipes. So here’s a supplement to the latest spread in A la Carte, plus another couple of salad recipes, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press. Each is ready in less than 30 minutes.

For the first, I find that segmenting grapefruits at least with a knife is unnecessary. I simply peel the fruit while still cold from the refrigerator, break it into sections and then strip away the membranes by hand. The pulp, still in segments, just slides out from the membranes. I haven’t tried this with all citrus varieties, which may have membranes that are too thin for this work.

Here are more techniques for preparing citrus from the Free Press.

Juicing: Get more juice out of limes (or lemons) by microwaving them for 20 seconds or by rolling them around under your palm on the countertop. As you press down, the segments break down, releasing more juice. Or use a fork to poke the segments. Freeze any leftover juice in ice-cube trays. Once frozen, place the cubes in a freezer bag.

Zesting: This means to remove pieces of the outer rind of the fruit, which has aromatic oils that enhance and flavor foods. The white, pithy part under the peel is bitter.

If a recipe calls for the “zest of one lemon,” that means to remove strips of rind from the whole lemon. If the recipe calls for grated lemon zest, grate the rind on a box grater, zester or rasp-style grater and then measure the quantity needed.

Store thin or wide strips of lemon zest and grated lemon zest in a freezer-safe container or plastic, resealable bag. It will keep for several months.

Several kitchen tools easily remove citrus zest to avoid the pith. Here are a few:

Rasp-style zesters and graters. Most cooks prefer Microplane-style graters, which have sharp teeth that remove the zest in a snap and in feathery bits that incorporate easily with other ingredients. Graters come in several sizes, colors and styles, producing fine to coarse grates.

Citrus zesters. These typically have five tiny but sharp holes in their tips. When you pull the zester across the fruit, little strips of peel come off.

Vegetable peelers. Use one that is not super sharp so it doesn’t dig too deep into the fruit and remove the white pith. If this happens, use a paring knife to scrape away any pith.

Segmenting: Here’s an easy way to cut oranges and grapefruits into segments. Use a serrated knife to cut a slice off each end of the fruit, revealing some of the flesh. Stand the fruit on one cut end. Starting at the top of the fruit and cutting to the bottom, slice off pieces of peel along with the pith (you will get some of the flesh), following the curve of the fruit.

Once you’ve removed the peel all around, cut off any remaining pith. To cut into segments, hold the fruit in your hand over a bowl to catch the juices. Cut on each side of the membrane all the way to the core to cut out the segment. Once you have cut out all the segments, squeeze what you have left to release more juice. 

MCT photo

Ruby Red Grapefruit, Hearts of Palm and Shrimp Salad

4 red or pink grapefruit, segmented (see tip above)

8 ounces peeled and cooked, small shrimp

1 (14-ounce) can hearts of palm, drained and sliced

1⁄2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro

1⁄3 cup chopped red onion

1⁄4 cup sliced green olives

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

After segmenting the grapefruit, squeeze juice from membrane into a medium bowl. Add the shrimp, hearts of palm, cilantro, onion, olives and salt; stir to combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe From Eating Well magazine’s January/February 2013 issue.

MCT photo

Citrus Salad With Dates and Walnuts

1⁄2 cup chopped dates

4 tablespoons blood-orange or clementine juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar

1⁄8 teaspoon ground cumin, optional

Salt, to taste

1⁄4 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup clementine, blood-orange or ruby red-grapefruit segments

5 cups salad greens

1⁄2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

In a heatproof bowl, cover the dates with boiling water; let stand for 5 minutes. Strain, reserving 1 teaspoon liquid. Place reserved liquid in a bowl and add the juice, olive oil, vinegar, cumin and salt to taste. Add dates, the onion and citrus segments; toss with the greens and nuts and serve. Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe adapted from Everyday With Rachael Ray magazine’s December 2012 issue.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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