Yesterday my son asked me what my favorite foods were when I was a kid and I quickly responded, “Salad! I remembered telling someone when I was in the second grade that I wouldn’t mind drinking a bottle of olive oil and vinegar.” To which my son scoffed, “That’s impossible. What 7-year-old likes salad that much?” Honestly, I did. I loved salad then and I love salad now. I was always in charge of dressing the salad when I was young. But we didn’t make anything fancy. I just drizzled good olive oil and vinegar with some salt on our greens and that was that.
Right now is probably not the most exciting time of the year for fruit, even in Southern California. Sure, we have amazing citrus coming our of our ears, but that’s pretty much it. Pomegranates and persimmons just finished. Even the apples we buy now were picked a few months ago and kept in cold storage. They’re great for cooking in desserts or on top of morning oatmeal, but they’re not as crunchy, crispy, and juicy as they were in November. Mr. Picky keeps asking me, “are strawberries in season yet?” Almost, little guy.
But like I said, citrus fruits are in full force and I buy a wide assortment every week, including blood oranges, navels, Satsuma tangerines, and grapefruits, to name a few. You probably already know that citrus fruits contain tons of Vitamin C, a very powerful antioxidant which is so helpful during cold and flu season, but keep in mind fresher is better since fruits lose 10% of their Vitamin C every day they are off the vine. My family goes through quite a bit of citrus fruit between breakfast, lunch boxes, and after school snacks. Sometimes I’ll even put some citrus segments in salads just for fun. Blood oranges are especially tasty in Raw Kale Salad or mixed greens with an Asian vinaigrette.
But I have made an interesting observation about grapefruit and my family. They absolutely love grapefruit, but when I buy them, they seem to sit around untouched. Everyone seems to think of grapefruit as a breakfast-only food and no one takes the time in the morning to cut them for eating. Is it that we’re always short on time in the morning? Is it that everyone is too lazy? Perhaps a little of both. I supposed grapefruits do take a few minutes more to prep than other citrus fruits since merely peeling a grapefruit leaves the white bitter pith which no one really cares for. But if I segment a bunch of grapefruits when I come home from the market and put them in a container in the fridge, the kids fight over the last bite. I’ve even seen Mr. Picky sitting at the kitchen counter with a bowl of grapefruit, a fork and his homework. Would you call this “healthful convenience food?” If so, I’ll take the extra time in the beginning of the week to do this for my family if it means they’ll eat fruit instead of the Halloween candy they don’t know I know they have stashed under their bathroom sinks behind the extra toilet paper. What, was I born yesterday?
While I was segmenting grapefruits, a technique you can also use for larger oranges, I decided to demo how to cut smaller citrus into “pinwheel” slices. These take a little less time and make for a beautiful presentation for citrus salads or to add to winter salads.
I didn’t have any images for this post, but I have done a citrus pinwheel salad with oranges, blood oranges, and tangerines which is just so pretty. On the site I posted a salad with spinach, blood oranges and beets to which you can add seared wild salmon. That is a great light meal for a weeknight or guests. Grapefruit and avocado is a classic pairing. However you slice them, citrus fruits are worth the effort!
how to segment citrus fruit
- Using a very sharp knife, slice a bit off the top and the bottom of the grapefruit so it sits flat on a cutting board.
- Starting at the top of the grapefruit, cut the peel away from the fruit following the natural curve of the fruit down towards the cutting board. The idea is to take off the peel, white pith and membrane, but not to remove too much of the fruit. Continue around the entire grapefruit until no more peel is remaining.
- Take the grapefruit in one hand positioned over a bowl (to catch the juices) and the knife in the other hand. Identify the white lines in the grapefruit which separate the segments from each other and slice as close to the white line as possible cutting down to the center of the grapefruit. Cut alongside the membrane holding the segment and wedge the piece out with the knife.
- Continue with the remaining segments. The leftover membranes can be eaten if you like.
how to cut citrus pinwheels
- Using a very sharp knife, slice a bit off the top and the bottom of the fruit so it sits flat on a cutting board.
- Starting at the top of the fruit, cut the peel away following the natural curve of the fruit down towards the cutting board. The idea is to take off the peel, white pith and membrane, but not to remove too much of the fruit. Continue around the entire piece of fruit until no more peel is remaining.
- Place the fruit on its side and slice crosswise into pinwheels.
Don’t let the fancy name fool you. This recipe is as easy as it is beautiful and it’s absolutely delicious. All of this is in season right now — from the wild salmon and spinach to the blood oranges and beets — and it comes just in time for the last Friday of Lent.
This dish reminds me of a nutrition lesson I taught to some elementary school students one year about “eating the colors of the rainbow.” Nature provides us with a beautiful spectrum of colors from which to choose and those colors represent different phytonutrients — compounds found in plant foods which help protect the plants from viruses and bacteria, but also support our health, as well.
There are thousands of phytonutrients which are classified by family. But teaching the classification of phytonutrients to fifth graders (or adults) is overwhelming and confusing. All we really need to know is that each color (including white) represents an important set of different health benefits. In order to maximize our exposure to all these health benefits, we need to eat a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables everyday in as many colors as possible…..like the colors of the rainbow.
This salad may not cover every color, but it sure gives you a solid start. One colorful addition to the salad which does not contain phytonutrients, but is loaded with anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids is wild salmon. If you don’t eat fish, the salad is fantastic without it, but if you do eat fish I strongly encourage you to find a good source for wild salmon which is one of the richest sources of Omega-3s that you can find. Unfortunately the typical American is both lacking in Omega-3s and out of balance in the Omega 3 – Omega 6 ratio, resulting in a highly inflammatory diet. I bought this lovely piece of sockeye from Vital Choice because I need a consistent source of high quality fish for my classes, but occasionally I can find what I’m looking for in my local markets, including the farmer’s market.
Although I don’t get too worked up about the presentation of my food (I’m much more concerned with how it tastes and its nutritional benefits), it is always nice to eat something that looks as beautiful as it tastes.
To all my students and readers who celebrate Easter, have a lovely holiday!
- 1 bunch medium beets
- 5 medium blood oranges (or regular oranges)
- 2 Tablespoons finely diced shallot
- 1 ½ Tablespoons fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons raw honey
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces baby spinach leaves or arugula, washed and dried
- 6 filets wild Alaskan salmon, 5 to 6 ounces each
- zest of one blood orange (optional)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season the fish
- 4 Tablespoons cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut the greens off the beets, leaving about ½ inch of the stems still attached. Save the greens for another time. Wash the beets well and place them in a roasting pan with a ½-inch layer of water on the bottom. Cover tightly with foil (if the foil touches the beets, cover first with parchment, then with foil.) Roast about 50 minutes (or longer for larger beets). When the beets are done, carefully remove the foil. Allow them to cool, and then peel them by slipping off the skins with your fingers. Cut them into ½-inch wedges.
- Slice the stem and bottom ends from the blood oranges. Stand the oranges on one end and, following the contour of the fruit with a very sharp knife, remove the peel and white pith. Work from top to bottom, rotating the fruit as you go. Then hold each orange over a bowl and carefully slice between the membranes and the fruit to release the segments in between. Squeeze any juice left in the remaining membrane into a measuring cup. Add any juice from the bowl of blood orange segments to the measuring cup. (Or if you're pressed for time, just slice the oranges into rounds.)
- Combine the diced shallot, lemon juice, ¼ cup blood orange juice (if you didn’t reserve enough, you can add regular freshly squeezed orange juice), honey and ¾ teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil slowly. Add black pepper and additional sea salt to taste.
- Remove the salmon from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature. Season the salmon with the zest, sea salt, and ground pepper.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the oil to the pan and allow to heat up for 1 minute, until very warm, but not smoking. Lay the fish in the pan, seasoned side down, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until it is lightly browned. Turn the fish over, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook a few minutes more, until it is almost cooked through. Do your best not to overcook the salmon. When it is done, the fish will begin to flake and separate a little, and the center will be slightly rare. The salmon will continue to cook a bit more while it sits.
- Place the spinach in a bowl and toss lightly with some dressing. Transfer to a serving platter. Place the salmon on top of the spinach.
- Place the beets and blood oranges in the bowl and toss lightly with some dressing. Arrange the beets and blood oranges around the perimeter of the platter. Drizzle the salmon with additional dressing, if desired.
Do-ahead suggestions: You can prepare your beets, oranges, greens and dressing up to 2 days before.