As we enter into March, the citrus season is at its peak in most markets (such as Nurel’s Farmers Market in Hampton Bays), carrying an abundance of orange and grapefruit varieties.
With their rough maroon rind and distinctly crimson flesh, blood oranges have a sweet way of standing out among other seasonal fruits, albeit with a slightly ominous name. In the culinary and cocktail world, they can show up on winter menus blended into sorbet or juiced and shaken in a seasonal margarita.
Sicilians may have figured out the best way to incorporate this Mediterranean orange variety (that dates back to the 18th century) into the colder month meals by pairing it with fennel and olive oil, commonly known as Insalata di Arance.
A bit of research and you will find many modifications of this salad online, which is to say that this is less of a recipe and more of a way to complement the base ingredient of the dish—fresh, bright fruit.
The addition of chewy dates (widely available pitted) evolve the salad with Middle Eastern flavors, with a counterpoint of crunch from roasted pistachios and dukkah, an Egyptian spice and nut blend.
Thinly sliced red onion is a key ingredient, adding a just-right tang to the citrus flavors, especially if pickled.
Garnishing the dish with chopped mint brings brightness, a fresh aroma and contrasting color.
Cutting the rind and pith away from the blood orange takes a bit of practice and a sharp knife. Following the curvature of the fruit will impart the best results. Fruits like stem and leaf mandarins (also available at Nurel’s) are an easy-peel and quick additional add-in, their sweet juiciness an excellent panacea for the winter blues.
Citrus and date salad with mint and pistachio dukkah
- 3 blood oranges
- 3 stem and leaf mandarin oranges or clementines
- 2 large navel or cara cara oranges
- 4 to 5 medjool dates sliced in half
- 1/2 small red onion thinly sliced and pickled (see below)
- 1 small bunch mint leaves coarsely chopped
- olive oil
- red wine or sherry vinegar
- 2 tbsp roasted pistachios
- 1 to 1 1/2 tsp white sesame seeds
- 1 tsp firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/8 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp flaky sea salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Quick pickled red onions
- 1 small red onion
- 1/2 tsp white sugar
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 cup white vinegar
- 6 white or black peppercorns
- 3 whole coriander seeds
- 2 1/2 cups water
- Cut the peel and rind and white pith from all the larger oranges with a sharp knife, following the contour of the fruit, then slice into ¼-inch thick rounds.
- Slice the medjool dates in half. Set aside.
- Peel the stem and leaf mandarins and segment them. Chop into bite-size pieces (optional).
- Decoratively arrange the oranges, chopped medjool dates and thinly sliced red onion in overlapping layers on a large shallow platter.
- Garnish the citrus salad with coarsely chopped pistachio dukkah and roughly chopped mint. Drizzle with olive oil and a splash of red wine or sherry vinegar. Finish with a pinch of sea or Maldon salt.
To make the dukkah
- In a dry skillet over medium heat toast the sesame seeds for 1 minute until fragrant, remove and set aside.
- Add the cumin and coriander seeds to same skillet and toast for 1 minute, until fragrant. Remove and set aside.
- In a food processor, combine all the dukkah ingredients and pulse into a spice mix.
For the pickled red onion
- Cut off the ends and peel the onion. Cut in half and thinly slice into 1/8-inch slices. Place into a heat-proof sealable jar.
- Add in the sugar, salt, vinegar, peppercorns and coriander.
- Boil the water. Pour into the jar, seal and give it a little shake to mix and dissolve the spices. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes.