A few days ago I actually believed the weather forecast: snow and lots of it. I decided to stop on my way home to pick up groceries for a few days just in case it was accurate (it was). I was looking for fennel for a salad I had in mind, given the fact that it was the last sunny day we might see for a while. I was thinking of just a few simple ingredients oriented around bright, beautiful citrus. Tender, colorful Cara cara oranges; tart Kalamata olives, and some crisp, sweet fennel. I went to 2 stores, my limit before I start getting irritated (and the radio had already gotten on my bad side for continuing to beat the same poor horse of election debates and primaries). Not so much as a frond in sight. So I stood some distance from the chilled produce, arms crossed, concentrated a frown, and just scanned back and forth to see what might do instead. One of the produce guys walked (quickly) past, head down, holding me in the corner of his eye just in case I might try to trip him or something. My irritation wasn’t with him any more than it was with the radio. The former has to do with living in produce-challenged Montana in winter; as for the latter, well, enough said. Finally I squinted at the cabbages, and actually said out loud, “Oh, that’s it!” when I spied a frilly head of tender Napa cabbage. So here is an honestly uncomplicated salad to perhaps take the edge off these complicated times. It makes a wonderful lunch or dinner side. It’s also a great, uh, candidate for a buffet. It holds up perfectly under stress, it will be faithful to you, never try to be something it isn't.
To see a photo, visit my blog, thesolitarycook.wordpress.com: http://wp.me/p27pPl-6H —boulangere
Test Kitchen Notes
Opening Statement: I ate this salad three nights in a row. It is really a perfect balance of sweet and salty brine, oniony goodness and lemon tartness. All combined with the crispy Napa cabbage to make a salad that you will eat until it’s gone no matter how much you make. Our head of Napa was enormous, and after three salad we still have some, so use your judgment as far as using a whole head. I also added some shiso to the dressing in the third round, just because I had some. It is good right when you make it, and even better after an hour or so in the fridge while you finish up cooking the rest of you dinner. —aargersi
For the Salad
2 cara cara oranges, peeled and suprême
1/2 cup kalamata olives, drained, halved
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 head Napa cabbage, finely shredded
For the Dressing
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (use a good Italian one if you can)
Juice of half a lemon (Meyer, if possible)
1/4 cup feta cheese, roughly chopped
3 or 4 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea or kosher salt and pepper to taste
In This Recipe
On my blog, I have what think is a fairly easy description (with photos) of how to suprême any citrus fruit: thesolitarycook http://wp.me/27pPl. Basically, you need to remove all the peel and white pith from the outside, then remove each segment, leaving behind all the membranes. Yes, it's worth the effort.
Place all the salad ingredients in a salad bowl or large mixing bowl.
You’ll get the best blend on the dressing if you use a food processor or a blender. The cheese purées into a creamy emulsion with the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. If you can’t get Meyer lemons, by all means use an ordinary lemon, but add 1/2 teaspoon or so of honey because Meyer lemons have a touch of sweetness to them. Purée the first five ingredients, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad, then toss to blend.
Divide between plates. Serve with some good crusty bread so none of the luscious dressing is left behind.