Not once, ever, in 30+ years have I considered myself to be creative. I focused on performing arts during middle and high school, but never pursued it further, I can barely draw a stick figure, and if you ask me to make up a story on the spot I will look at you as if you have two heads.
Somehow, being in a kitchen is different.
The ideas are forming faster than I can write them down — playing with color, texture, and flavor in new and exciting ways. It’s here, in my kitchen, where I feel the most comfortable experimenting.
If you’ve walked around a store or market recently, you’ve probably noticed an abundance of winter citrus. Everything from blood oranges, mandarins, cara caras, to more exotic fruits like makrut limes or buddhas hand.
When I was working at Perry Street in the city, the chef taught me how to approach these ingredients. Zest and taste a bit of the skin. What does it taste like? Is it sour? Sweet? Bitter? If you can’t eat it on its own because of the strong acidity or sourness, pair it with a dessert, giving it a chance to play off the sweetness of sugar. Or candy the peels and add them to, well, anything! Worst case (read: best case)? Infuse vodka or other liquor and make killer cocktails.
For this salad, I tried to be cognizant of the contrasting flavors and textures of the dish. The citrus ranges from sweet (cara cara) to tart (blood orange), the fennel adds a necessary crunch and is much more mild than say sliced raw onion, while the beets add a natural sweetness to contrast all the acidity. Garnish with a strong, nutty olive oil, a dash of balsamic if you’re feeling it (I always am), and lots of fresh herbs to add brightness. It’s as beautiful to look at as it is to eat.
Is it safe to call this art? Okay, cool.
Winter citrus salad with fennel and roasted beets
- Aluminum foil
- 1 bunch red beets about 4-5
- 1 bunch golden beets about 4-5
- 2 blood oranges
- 2 cara cara orange
- 1 head fennel
- flaky sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup chives thinly sliced
- ¼ cup mint
- ¼ cup tarragon thinly sliced
- Preheat oven to 425 F. Place 2 beets at a time on a large sheet of aluminum foil, then wrap tightly. Repeat with remaining beets. Place all packets on a large rimmed baking sheet, then roast until tender, about 45-60 minutes, then cool.
- Meanwhile, peel and segment (or cut into circles) the blood oranges and caras. Place segmented fruit into a small bowl, then squeeze the excess juice remaining from membranes on top.
- Peel the fennel by removing and discarding the outer layer. Slice the bulb in half and cut out the core on both sides. Thinly slice the fennel and place in a bowl filled with ice water until you're ready to plate.
- When the beets have cooled for ~10 minutes, use an old kitchen towel or a couple paper towels to gently rub off the skin; it should come off easily. Slice the beets into segments and/or circles.
- To plate: layer the beets, citrus, and fennel on top of each other. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic, then season with maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Finish with a heavy sprinkling of fresh herbs. Serve immediately or at room temperature.