Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Savory Citrus Salad

Pity the poor people outside of Southern California this winter. They get snow. We get citrus! And greens! And all sorts of other delicious produce.

I spent some time at Specialty Produce last week and picked up several unusual items.

First there was the real reason I went there: for Blushing Violet Potatoes. Owner Bob Harrington had posted a photo of them on Instagram and I just had to have them. I'd tell you to go rush over to get them but they appear to have been kind of a fluke, mixed in with other tiny potatoes from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. But keep your eyes open for these. They're sweet little potatoes that are cream and purple. Even when you cook them (I roasted several on a bed of course sea salt in my French diable clay pot), they maintain their distinctive colors. You could boil and slice them into a salad for an unusual-looking side dish.

With those in hand, I went into the chilly farmers market walk in fridge and learned about a couple of different and unusual citrus varieties.

One was a Vanilla Blood Orange, sold by Tom King Farms. It has the look of a blood orange but not the acid. So it's got a more bland, sweet--and, yes, slightly vanilla flavor to it. Doesn't sound like something to rush out for? Well, the coral color is lovely and the flavor actually complements the more dramatic flavors you'll find in some citrus, like grapefruit and the other fruit I took home with me, Daisy Tangerines.

Oh, you'll love these tangerines from Polito Farms. They are knock-you-on-the-head fruit in terms of flavor. Very sweet and juicy but also very acidic. They're perfect for snacking and would be wonderful for jamming or baking.

While I was cruising around the walk in, produce wrangler Nathan Bochler decided to introduce me to a couple of other unique items.

One is called yacon. It's a long Peruvian root most often used to make syrup. But if you peel and slice these tubers, you'll find they taste a lot like jicama or water chestnuts. They're fresh and crispy with a sweet, clean flavor. You can add them to a salad or stir fry.

Finally, Nathan produced a Valencia Pride Mango grown in San Diego and near the Salton Sea. Now, they look like conventional mangoes--sort of. They have the right coloring, but they're more elongated. These late-season mangoes also have a very smooth, thin edible skin and gives up a slightly coconut flavor. They also aren't nearly as fibrous as what you're probably used to. What Nathan likes to do is let them go very very soft. So soft that you cut off the tip of the fruit and squeeze to get a mango paste. I tried that but it didn't work for me. So what I did do is slice a large, very soft chunk off and cleaned the pulp from the skin to make a salad dressing.

Yep, a salad dressing. Because I took the citrus and the yacon and created a beautiful winter salad atop mixed greens. I added some sliced red onion, olives, and toasted pecans. Then I created a dressing with the Valencia Pride Mango pulp, lime juice from limes in my garden, really good olive oil, sea salt and red pepper flakes. The dressing was thick and sweet and tart with a little heat to it. Oh, who would have thought you could enjoy something so tropical in January!

Valencia Pride Mango Dressing
(printable recipe)
Yield: About 1 cup

1/2 to 3/4 cup of very soft Valencia Pride Mango pulp
Juice from 1 and 1/2 limes
Large pinch of high-quality sea salt
Large pinch of red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil

Using a whisk stir together the mango pulp, lime juice, sea salt, and red pepper flakes. Gradually whisk in the olive oil until you get the texture you want. Depending on the texture of the mango you may need more lime juice or more olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings.

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