As usual, I’m late to the party.
Because we are well into citrus season, and because you don't live under a rock, you probably know that citrus this year is amazing.
I, on the other hand, had somehow managed to make it to the middle of February without eating one single orange or grapefruit or pomelo. Which is why I was unaware that we are in the middle of a perfect storm of citrus deliciousness.
I did a little online sleuthing and discovered that last year’s drought, combined with unusually cold weather and rain (finally!) in southern California have resulted in one of the juiciest, most flavorful citrus crops in years. Now I’m on a mission to consume as much citrus as possible before the season ends. I highly recommend you join me.
Peel-and-eat is never a bad strategy. But if you need fresh inspiration for what to do with all that excellent citrus, let me introduce you to one of my favorite winter salads:
In true So Cal style, it’s got a variety of jewel-toned oranges, sweet medjool dates and a handful of spicy pepitas for crunch. The kale is sturdy enough for all those big flavors. The vanilla and shallot vinaigrette adds both earthiness and zing.
I made this for lunch today and decided it’s the perfect salad for jazzing up a grey winter day. Healthy. Bright. And full of bold flavors.
I for one will be making this salad many more times before winter's over. And hoarding as much citrus as I can manage.
Kale and Citrus Salad with Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette
- 1 bunch young kale (I like Lacinato kale), stems removed and torn into bite-size pieces
- Fine sea salt
- 4 oranges (I used a mix of blood oranges, cara caras and heirloom navel oranges)
- 4 large, fresh medjool dates, pitted, halved and sliced crosswise into thin strips
- 1/2 cup spiced pepitas (see below)
- 1 recipe vanilla bean vinaigrette (see below)
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot (from 1 small shallot)
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Pinch fine sea salt
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
For spiced pepitas:
- ½ cup raw hulled pepitas
- ¼ teaspoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Pinch cayenne
- Pinch fine sea salt
*Note: By the time I finished shooting this salad, I was super hungry and decided it needed a little more substance. I tossed in some leftover roasted chicken and it was transformed into filling lunch. A little leftover roasted salmon would work, too.
Place the torn kale in a large bowl and sprinkle lightly with salt. Rub the salt into the kale leaves (this helps tenderize the greens) and set aside while you make the vinaigrette.
Using a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and place them in a medium bowl with the sugar, shallot, sherry vinegar, lemon juice and salt. Add the oil in a thin stream while whisking. Set aside for at least 10 minutes to allow the shallot to mellow and the flavors to come together.
Place the pepitas in a medium skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until they begin to turn golden brown, pop and smell nutty. Immediately transfer the hot pepitas to a small bowl and add the olive oil, cumin, honey and salt. Stir to coat evenly. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set the seasoned pepitas aside to cool.
Slice the peel and pith from the citrus and cut them into rounds about ¼-inch thick. Place them in a small bowl and spoon a bit of the vinaigrette over them. Dress the kale with the vinaigrette to taste. Set the greens and citrus aside for another 10 minutes or so to allow the vinaigrette to work its magic.
To assemble the salad, add the citrus (along with any juice at the bottom of the bowl) to the kale. Add half the pepitas and half of the sliced dates. Toss gently to combine. Place the salad on a serving platter or individual plates and top with the remaining dates and pepitas.
The dressed kale and citrus will hold for a day in the fridge (don’t add the pepitas or they’ll get soggy). The vinaigrette will hold for 3-4 days, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.
Makes 4 servings.