Like many New Yorkers, I have a healthy fear of the Upper West Side’s Fairway Market (the Harlem one isn’t so bad, but the Pulaski Skyway is technically closer to my apartment). Sure, they sell everything in the world, but from my rough estimation, the store contains everyone in the world at any given moment and it turns out, the quickest way to turn me into the kind of person with plumes of smoke pouring from my ears as I white-knuckle a shopping cart is to ram into the back of my ankles with yours. Ahem. So yes, I don’t shop there very often.
But last weekend! Last weekend I went to their new store in New Jersey… ah, New Jersey with its wide-open spaces and aisles wide enough for two shopping carts in opposing directions and acres upon acres of refrigerated produce space. I about lost it when I saw more than a dozen varieties of citrus and suddenly this citrus salad idea that I had been kicking around in the back of my head became The Next Thing I Absolutely Had To Make.
I’m a sucker for a colorful, lettuce-free salad, and in warmer times my defaults are this Mediterranean Pepper Salad or anything that allows me to go nuts with purple carrots. But in dreary January, these pink, orange and red-celled wheels of citrus were a sight for sore eyes, this fresh platter a brief and delicious respite from considering things to braise, roast and cook for hours. My mind turned to cruise ships, damp island breezes and marshmallow wrists and legs in tiny swim trunks and for a few minutes I completely forgot we’ve got months of winter to go. I call that a salad miracle.
One year ago: Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake
Two years ago: Anything-But-Clementine Clafoutis
Three years ago: Hibernation Fare
Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta, Onion and Mint
3 to 4 tablespoons red onion, cut into tiny bits
4 pieces of citrus, preferably a mix of grapefruits and oranges but use what you can get, and what you like to eat (spoiled by the spread at the store, I used 1 pink grapefruit, 1 cara cara and 1 blood orange, and 1 mineola)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 to 4 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) feta cheese, chopped or crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped or cut into tiny slivers
Place your red onion in the bottom of a medium bowl. Nest a strainer over the bowl.
Prepare your citrus fruits by beveling the stem end of one, cutting enough off that you reveal the pith-free flesh of the fruit. Repeat on the other end. Rest your fruit on one of its now-flat surface and begin cutting the peel and pith off in large, vertical pieces. You want the fruit’s exterior to be “white”-free.
Turn the fruit back on its side and cut it into 1/4-inch thick wheels, removing any seeds and thick white stem as you do. Place the wheels and any collected juices from the cutting board in the strainer over the bowl with onion. Repeat with remaining citrus fruits. (As the extra juices drip over the bowl, it will soften the raw onion bite.)
Spread the fruit slices out on a platter. Scoop out the onion bits (a slotted spoon or fork does the trick) and sprinkle them over, leaving the juice in the bowl. Whisk one tablespoon of juice (this is all I had accumulated) with red wine vinegar or lemon juice, Dijon and olive oil. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the citrus, sprinkle with feta and mint, adjust salt and pepper to taste, serve immediately and daydream of warmer places.