Sweet Tart

Tangy citrus is a winter lifesaver.



Not because I’m nice, but because hungry kids aren’t, it’s long been my practice to bring snacks along to pick my kids up from school. Sometimes it’s cheese or popcorn, but usually cut-up fruit in season does the trick.

On the ride home on our first day of school, one of the kids in our carpool asked, “When do we start getting grapefruit again?” From January till March, when the season tapers off, I’d greeted the boys with luscious wedges of Texas ruby-red. Top-notch pink grapefruit achieves a perfect balance of tart and sweet, substantial and refreshing. After a day in the trenches at school, that bright burst of juice met the kids’ deep need for revitalization.

Especially for hard cases who clamp their lips shut at the sight of vegetables, citrus fruits can be a winter lifesaver. Loaded with vitamins C and A, they make a great snack but can also lure your skeptic to a salad, especially if you sweeten the deal with a piquant or spicy sauce.

Their translucent beauty lends itself to dramatic presentation. The Creamsicle-colored parfait below makes a snack or healthy dessert feel like a party. And the salad plays colors and textures off each other. Try these classic flavors and brighten your winter.

Darling Clementine Parfait

1 cup 2 percent or nonfat Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon agave or honey

¼ teaspoon vanilla

2-3 fresh clementines or mandarins, peeled and separated into segments (drained unsweetened canned will do in a pinch)

Toasted and chopped cashews or pecans or slivered almonds for topping.

Whisk honey or agave and vanilla into yogurt. (This extra step avoids sugary and expensive flavored vanilla yogurt.) Scrape half of the yogurt into 2 8-oz glasses. Top with half the fruit, then repeat. Top each with a sprinkle of nuts. (Or try a dram of clove syrup, below.)

Christmas Citrus Salad, 2 Ways

Here’s one way kids can help with the holiday feast. Have them arrange the lettuce, place citrus circles on top, drizzle with colorful dressing, and finish with herbs and nuts.

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (available at Mediterranean Grocery or  thespicehouse.com) 

1 tablespoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar

1 small shallot, minced fine

salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup olive and/or walnut oil

1 head soft lettuce, such as Boston or Bibb, washed and dried

4 blood oranges/2 pink grapefruit 

Leaves from 2 sprigs mint or basil, washed and dried

¼ cup toasted chopped pecans, or 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Make the dressing: in a small bowl or a blender, blend the first five ingredients until emulsified. Set aside. Arrange greens on 4 small plates. 

With a sharp knife, slice the tops and bottoms off the fruits. Pare off the peel, aiming to remove as much of the white pith as possible without removing too much fruit.  

Roll each fruit on its side, and, with a serrated knife, thinly (¼ inch) slice it crosswise. Remove seeds and arrange in circles on the beds of greens. Whisk juice from cutting board into the dressing, then drizzle onto salads. Tear herbs and scatter on top. Sprinkle with nuts.

Easy

1 head soft lettuce, such as Boston or Bibb, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces

2-4 tablespoons clove-spice syrup (recipe follows)

2-4 navel oranges, peeled and segmented

juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

Leaves from 2 sprigs mint or basil, washed and dried

¼ cup shelled, salted pistachios

Using a serrated knife, cut orange segments into bite-sized pieces. Pour any juice off the cutting board into a small bowl, then add lemon juice to make one tablespoon. Toss fruit with clove syrup to taste. 

In a salad bowl, sprinkle lettuce with olive oil and about ½ teaspoon salt. Toss to coat lettuce well. Sprinkle with orange-lemon juice mix, and toss again. Taste for salt and add pepper. Mound greens on 4 plates and top with fruit mixture, then sprinkle with torn herbs and nuts.

Clove-Spice Syrup

Tailor the optional spices to your family’s tastes, and try a tablespoon in club soda or hot cider.

1 cup water

½ cup sugar

4 whole cloves

a pinch of salt

Optional: 1 stick cinnamon; ½ teaspoon black peppercorns; ½ teaspoon sichuan peppercorns; a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced; 4-5 cardamom pods; a vanilla bean

Mix all ingredients and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally till the sugar is dissolved. Simmer 10 minutes, then allow to cool. Strain. This will keep indefinitely in the fridge, though crystals might form after a while.

 

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