One advantage to living in Oregon is closer access to California produce. And one advantage of this time of year are blood oranges!
So at the store today I just wanted an easy, light salad for lunch. In these situations I usually will wander the produce department looking for things that seem interesting, well-priced and in good quality. And there… today…. were one of my favorite fruits in the world–the blood orange. If you’re unfamiliar with these, they are produced in Italy, are mostly available this time of year and they are…
PURPLE! Vibrantly purple too. Also, sweet and delicious.
I also saw dandelion greens that we’re cheap, not terribly fresh, but I knew how to crispen them up (more on that in a moment.) Dandelions are another food a lot of people are familiar with because they’re mostly known and hated as the most oppressive weed of them all. But here’s the thing, dandelions are weeds because they were first food. In Europe dandelions have been eaten for ages, used medicinally and naturally European settlers brought this with them to America. And we all know what can happen when you introduce a non-native plant to an ecosystem (not that your lawn is in any sense, an “ecosystem.”)
Dandelions have a rather definite bitterness to them, a bit like escarole with a deeper, plant-y flavor. Fortunately, a great way to cut that bitterness down so that it’s subtle is to add sweet… like orange juice. And it didn’t occur to me until I got home that I’d bought: purple oranges, orange carrots and purple-veined greens, plus had purple cabbage in the fridge. So it just turned into:
How to make:
1/2 of dandelion greens, rinsed and dried.*
1 medium-sized carrot, sliced or julienned
1 loose handful of finely shredded red cabbage
(optional) thin-slices of red onion
*if any greens you have are a bit wilted, but not turning brown/expelling liquid; give them 5 minutes soaking in cold, cold water.
These things just get cut into salad-sized pieces. Next you need a quick vinaigrette of:
the juice of one blood orange
about a teaspoon/dash of yogurt, sour cream or tahini (vegan version.)
salt and pepper
olive oil, or any dressing oil you may have
First juice the orange. The easiest way to do this is to cut it in half and squeeze with your other hand catching seeds as the juice runs through your fingers. Or just juice straight into the bowl and pick the seeds out. Add the yogurt/sour cream, salt pepper and stir. Why not use dijon mustard like most? For one, mustard and orange juice; second the creaminess also tempers the bitter greens; it sharpens the color of the blood oranges. Now you SLOWLY! add olive oil and whisk (whisk or a fork) until you’ve doubled the size of the dressing 1:1 ration. Toss this with the vegetables in a bowl and go.
Again, breaking with tradition of a usual dressing. 1:1 ratio is no way to make a vinaigrette in a classic way. However, these are sweet oranges and not strong vinegar so obviously I don’t need to drown them in oil. Another tip is to actually toss the salad. Salad dressing advertisements pour dressing and serve as presentation; this is great if you want to taste nothing but dressing at first, then have raw greens on the bottom. Final word on this, another way to make a vinaigrette is to add all your items to a small, clean, glass jar and shake vigorously. I don’t find this easier, but if you have trouble coordinating a whisk and slow poor, it works just as well.