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Caramelized Citrus Vinaigrette

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As you may have noticed, we’ve been getting a lot of our recent cooking inspiration from you. In the same autumn salad contest that prompted Merrill’s post on Persimmon Chiffon Pie, there were a couple of dressing recipes that incorporated caramelized fruit. I like citrus-based vinaigrettes but sometimes the flavor is too thin, too faint and ephemeral. So I decided to try caramelizing some citrus before squeezing the juice for the dressing.

I sliced a tangerine across its belly, dipped one half in raw sugar, then pressed it into a very hot pan. It sizzled and bounced like a soft-shell crab in butter, and when a rim of caramel formed around the edge, it was done. For the vinaigrette, I whisked in a dab of Dijon, a splash of white balsamic vinegar and a shot of olive oil. Turns out: eureka! The pale sweetness of the tangerine was enriched by the caramelization, giving the dressing both body and depth.

This new trick also worked with pink grapefruit, although I altered the dressing proportions slightly. There was no need for another acid like vinegar and I did add a pinch of sugar to the dressing to offset the grapefruit’s bitterness. Not everyone will notice the difference in a salad dressed with one of these vinaigrettes, but you will.

Caramelized Tangerine Vinaigrette

Makes about 1/2 cup

  • 1 small tangerine (or 2 clementines), halved through its belly
  • Raw sugar
  • Sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

1. Set a small sauté pan over medium high heat. Do not use cast iron. Dip the cut side of each tangerine half in the raw sugar – you want a light but thorough coating. When the pan is hot, press the sugared side of the tangerine onto the surface of the pan. Let bubble and sizzle until caramelized; keep a close eye, you don’t want them to blacken. Remove the tangerine halves to a plate.

2. When the tangerine halves are cool, squeeze their juice into a bowl. Measure out 1/4 cup and pour this into a small bowl.

3. Whisk in a pinch of salt, followed by the mustard and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning -- if you want more acidity, add a little fresh lemon juice or more white balsamic.

 

Caramelized Grapefruit Vinaigrette

Makes about 1/2 cup

  • 1 small pink or red grapefruit, halved through its belly
  • Raw sugar
  • Sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

1. Set a small sauté pan over medium high heat. Do not use cast iron. Spread the sugar on a plate and press the cut side of 1 grapefruit half in the raw sugar – it should fully coat the surface; eat the other half. When the pan is hot, lay the sugared side of the grapefruit in the pan. As the sugar melts and browns, the juices will bubble around the edge; don't let it blacken. Remove the grapefruit half to a plate and let cool.

2. Squeeze the juice from the grapefruit over a strainer and into a bowl. Measure out 1/4 cup and pour this into a small bowl.

3. Whisk in pinches of salt and sugar, then the mustard and vinegar. Gradually whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is smooth and thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning.