Friday, March 12, 2010

Blood Oranges, Dates, Parmesan, and Almonds (and Arugula, too)

I've come to realize that my very favorite kinds of salads combine greens with fruit, and cheese, and sometimes nuts/seeds. When I find a combination that I love, (such as this one with spinach, blackberries and goat cheese, or this one with grilled peaches and goat cheese) I will make it regularly as long as the fruit is in season.

Right now it's easy to find blood oranges in the market. For eating out of hand I prefer other types of oranges, but blood oranges really shine in this wonderful salad by Suzanne Goin, from her the book Sunday Suppers at Lucques (Knopf, 2005). I saw the salad on the lovely blog, Sara's Kitchen, and it looked so fresh and wonderful that I just had to try it. (Actually everything Sara cooks looks pretty fabulous! Her blog is on hiatus right now, but it's worth checking out her archives)

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The recipe is at the end of this post, below.

- The salad is a snap to make, only requiring slicing the blood oranges and deglet noor dates, and toasting the marcona almonds. The dressing is a drizzle of oil - fancy unfiltered almond oil, if you have/can get it, or olive oil otherwise (that's what I used).

the verdict:

I really love the wonderful combination of sweet, salty, and peppery flavors of this salad. It's made repeat appearances on my table in these cool months. I increase the amount of arugula and decrease the Parmesan and the oil; in fact, I often omit the oil entirely. (And when I'm not photographing the end result I cut the oranges, and dates in smaller pieces!)

the recipe:

1/2 cup raw almonds
15 Deglet Noor dates
4 large blood oranges
1/4 pound hunk Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 ounces arugula
2 tablespoons pure almond oil
Fleur de sel
freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

2. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet, and toast 8 to 10 minutes, until they're slightly darkened and smell nutty. Cut the dates in half lengthwise and remove the pits.

3. Slice the stem and blossom ends from the blood oranges. Stand the blood oranges on one end and, following the contour of the fruit with your knife, remove the peel and white cottony pith. Work from top to bottom, rotating the fruit as you go. Slice each orange horizontally into 8 to 10 thin pinwheels.

4. Place the Parmigiano-Reggiano, flat side down, on a cutting board. Using a chef's knife, shave eighteen large thin slices of cheese from the hunk.

5. Scatter one-third of the arugula on a large platter. Arrange one-third of the oranges, dates, cheese, and nuts. Scatter another layer of arugula, and continue layering in the same manner, letting the ingredients intertwine together but not pile up on one another. Drizzle the almond oil over the salad, and season lightly with fleur de sel, pepper, and a squeeze of blood orange juice.

Note: Use an artisanal unfiltered almond oil, such as Huilerie Leblanc. The best nut oils are stone-ground and pressed into a pale brown full-flavored oil. If it's clear and looks like vegetable oil, it won't have the intense, toasted nut flavor we're looking for. If you can't find a good pressed nut oil, drizzle with your favorite extra-virgin olive oil instead. If blood oranges are out of season, you can use another delicious orange. The dish won't be as visually stunning, but it will still taste good


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I have been looking for a delicious salad for those blood oranges on my counter. I will let you know how it goes.

Jessica said...

I love salads with fruit and cheese. That's probably because I love fruit and cheese plain, too. This is a lovely salad and it looks perfect for spring.

Eliana said...

I'm really loving this flavor combo. It looks awesome Nancy.

Audrey said...

I love salads with fruit and cheese, too! (but I've mostly stuck to spinach-and-strawberry in summer and spinach-and-apple or spinach-and-pear in the fall). This looks wonderful...especially since I've only tasted a blood orange once. There's a recipe from Fine Cooking where they put a blood orange salsa (really just oranges, red onion, cilantro and olive oil) on some seared fish and it's the most beautiful thing. I would love to try this (and that).

Unknown said...

I love Sara's blog too - I'm hoping she'll come back eventually and share some more goodies. I don't make salads often (probably because I'm stuck eating them all myself) but this one looks delicious!

Kayte said...

OMW this looks fantastic...original salad queen girl here so I'm always up for a salad and this combination sounds absolutely perfect and looks absolutely perfect. So going there. I wish I was in my kitchen right now. I believe I am caught up around here, so I think I will wander off and try to find a place for a quick trim of my hair...first tour is at 10:45. Hope you are having a great week.