winter brights salad

Though the weather here keeps flirting with spring, mother nature hasn't seemed to make a full commitment to it yet. At the farmer's market yesterday, the sun was shining and I was craving a crisp spring salad. Unfortunately, it looked like most of the early spring vegetables hadn't quite made their debut yet. 

I was determined to find something crunchy and  refreshing though. I didn't think I could take another week of my usual winter rotation of kale, kale, chard, kale, broccoli, and more kale.

The first thing that caught my eye was a Watermelon Radish. I happened to spot one that the market vendor had sliced open, otherwise I might have just passed them by. They look like just another boring root vegetable from the outside, but their gorgeous pink interior is impossible to ignore. They are nice and firm, and a little spicier than a regular radish.  

Next I was looking for something with a little more crunch to it. To my surprise, I found myself drawn to the fennel. I usually shy away from fennel as I'm not a fan of anything anise flavored, but I know the bulbs can be delicious in a salad if you slice them thinly. 

I couldn't resist picking up a couple of blood oranges to compliment my pretty pink radish. I thought their bright citrus tang would be the perfect thing to enliven my salad (and of course I'm a sucker for the color). 

Once I got the blood oranges home, I had to figure out a pretty way to include them in my salad. I knew I couldn't just peel them like I usually do, as the beautiful jewel-toned color gets hidden behind the dull grayish membranes. I had to supreme them!

Of course, I kinda shot myself in the foot by not looking up how to supreme an orange until after I had already cut mine in half for the photo above. Important note- it is much easier to supreme citrus whole, do not follow my lead and cut your fruit up first. I'm going to go ahead and let Martha explain the proper way to do it here

Once I removed my beautiful segments of orange, I tried to squeeze out any remaining juice from the sad pile of leftover membranes. I didn't want to waste a drop!

I usually just eyeball it when making salad dressings. I didn't end up with that much blood orange juice, so I added some sherry vinegar. Then I topped it up with an equal amount of olive oil. I wanted something tangy so I used close to equal parts oil and vinegar, but feel free to add more oil if you want to mellow it out.

Winter Brights Salad

For the salad:
1 bunch arugula or bag of mixed baby lettuces
1 blood orange
1 med watermelon radish
1 bulb fennel, tops removed
1/2 pound ricotta salata, or a good firm feta cheese

For the dressing:
Approx. 1 tbsp blood orange juice
Sherry or red wine vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Using a sharp paring knife, cut all peel and white pith from the blood orange. Holding the orange over a bowl to collect any juices, supreme the orange by slicing in between membranes to cut into segments. Set orange segments aside and squeeze juice from the leftover orange membranes into bowl. 

Pour the orange juice into the container you want to use for the dressing. I like to use a jar with a lid, so I can shake the dressing rather than having to whisk. Depending on amount of juice you get, add enough vinegar so you end up about 3 tablespoons of a juice/ vinegar mixture. Add approx. 4 tablespoons olive oil, a small spoonful of dijon (to help it emulsify), and some salt and pepper. Shake or stir dressing until combined. 

Slice radish, fennel bulb, and ricotta salata very thinly with a mandoline (a vegetable peeler will also work in a pinch). Toss radish, fennel, and salad greens with dressing, then add orange segments and cheese last. Crunch away!

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