Citrus fruits have so many uses for cooking beyond simply peeling and eating. They are by far the most utilized fruit group in my kitchen. I use lemon, lime and orange in some form or another almost everyday. From dressings, marinades and sauces, to zest when I want intense citrus flavor, or a squeeze here and there for acidity and brightness; I just couldn’t cook without it. Citrus is at peak ripeness during winter and you really can’t beat seasonal produce so this is a great recipe to make now and in the coming months.
This salad is my version of one I’ve had at various restaurants over the last few years. The bright acidity and subtle sweetness of the citrus is juxtaposed by the mildly anise flavored fennel, and the creamy, mild avocado adds the perfect textural contrast.
If you don’t already have a mandoline slicer I highly recommend getting one. It will make your cooking life SO MUCH EASIER. You can perfectly slice vegetables in minutes to add crunch and texture to salads, slice potatoes for chips, or slice veg for the grill. My favorite is this Benriner Mandoline which is sort of an industry standard among chefs. It’s super sharp so be careful not to slice too fast, I’ve shaved off my knuckle skin more times than I’d like to admit.
I used the juice from the citrus as the acid for the vinaigrette. I prefer to use Cara Cara oranges whenever I can find them since their pink hue is extra pretty. They’re also sweeter and less acidic than regular navel oranges. They’re in season from January to early April, I just found them at my Trader Joe’s, woohoo!
If you’ve never segmented a citrus fruit before, don’t worry, it’s easy and is such a great technique to add to your cooking repertoire. I actually prefer to eat oranges like this when I have the time, since I find the membrane is often tough and fibrous. My almost-two-year-old Mila, has an aversion to fruit and vegetable skin. She holds the fruit in her mouth and sucks out the juice, then spits the skin out onto the floor. My floors have basically become fruit skin receptacles. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…
Start by cutting the ends off the fruit (at the navel and opposite end) then place one of the cut ends on the cutting board so it’s nice and stable.
Using a small chef’s knife or paring knife, place the blade just beneath the white pith, right where it meets the flesh and gently slice downward around the curve of the fruit, removing the peel and pith. Repeat this around the circumference of the fruit in sections until all of the peel and pith are removed.
Now you can see each segment outlined by a white pithy membrane. Hold the fruit in one hand over a bowl to catch any juice that squeezes out, and place the knife (a paring knife is best for this part) right next to one of the membranes and slice down into the fruit. Slice down next to the adjacent membrane and the segment should slide right out.
After segmenting all the citrus, squeeze out the remaining juice into a small bowl and reserve to for later. Use a separate bowl for the orange and grapefruit juices.
This salad is great as a side dish for a dinner party, potluck or BBQ because it’s so easy to prepare goes with everything. Bon Appétit!
(serves 4 as a small side, 2 as a main)
- 4 large Cara Cara or 3 medium Navel oranges, segmented (about 1 3/4 cups)
- 1 large grapefruit, segmented (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 large ripe avocados, sliced
- 1 cup shaved or very thinly sliced fennel (about 1/2 a bulb)
- 1/4 cup mint leaves
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tsp grapefruit juice
- 2 tbsp orange juice
- 2 tsp minced shallot
- 1/2 tsp orange zest
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4-6 cracks freshly ground black pepper
- Zest one orange and place in a small bowl, reserve for dressing.
- Segment the citrus following the detailed instructions above and place segments in a large bowl.
- Squeeze out the remaining citrus juice (in separate bowls) and reserve for dressing.
- Cut off the fronds and end of the fennel bulb and peel off the outer layer like an onion.
- Using the thinnest setting on a mandoline, or if using a knife, very thinly slice the fennel bulb.
- Peel and slice the avocados into 1/4 inch slices.
- Pick 1/4 cup of mint leaves off the stems, about one large handful.
- Neatly arrange the citrus segments, avocado and fennel on a large serving platter in a single layer.
- Garnish with mint leaves.
- Measure out 2 tbsp orange juice and 3 tsp grapefruit juice from the bowls of juice you reserved earlier and combine in another small bowl.
- Mince 2 tsp shallot and place in the bowl with juices.
- Place 1/2 tsp orange zest, reserved from earlier, in the bowl.
- Stir all the ingredients together and slowly drizzle in 6 tbsp olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify the dressing.
- Add 1/4 tsp salt and 4-6 grinds black pepper, taste it and add more seasoning to your liking.
- Spoon dressing over salad just before serving.