Puntarelle, Orange and Shallot Salad
What could be a more seasonal Italian salad than this? Oranges, as my European friends will realize, are a Winter fruit over here, despite the fact that we have them in our supermarkets all of the time. But of course, when they are natures own, when they are in-season and when they are as delicious as these were... they really are something else!
These were the first good oranges of the season and I was totally thrilled with their great flavor- so much so, that I combined them with the other great seasonal ingredient that I picked up, the irresistible Puntarelle- and made this fantastic salad this evening!
I suppose that everyone if familiar with and loves orange and fennel salad by now, but as delicious as it may be, this was just so much better! I added mint to bring some freshness to counter-balance the savory shallot- and a drizzle of honey to knock it right out of the ball-park- and yes, it really was terrific!
One small head of Puntarelle, 1 orange, 1 shallot, a little fresh mint, salt, pepper, good olive oil and honey- you can remember that, can't you? It could hardly be any easier!
As always- it is all about the combination of flavors- they all come together and just work for you- all you have to do is to introduce them to one another! Just like any great team!
Remove some of the longer outer leaves to add here and there as a garnish at the end, revealing the weird and wonderful little green "pods" as I call them, within. As you may have noticed in my pasta recipe the other night, those outer leaves can be used wonderfully as chicory- because basically, that is exactly what Puntarelle are!
Snap the individual little pods away from the main stem...
... and then slice up as thinly as you like- or can!
Next, cut the top and bottom away from the orange and then cut away the peel, right down to the flesh, as you can see in the photo. Using a sharp knife, simply remove the orange segments from between the membranes.
Once you have removed all of the segments, you will be able to squeeze the juice from the remainder, into a small bowl- that orange juice will be the base for the salad dressing.
Slice the shallot as thinly as you possibly can... I mean REALLY thinly! Nobody likes eating raw onion that much after all! Then add it to the orange juice with plenty of good olive oil, a good pinch of salt and plenty of pepper.
Mash the shallot down into the other ingredients using a wooden spoon until it softens up and blends in thoroughly... the sweetness of the orange juice, along with the salt and the olive oil reduce the onion flavor... but of course the onion flavor of the shallot also give the dressing its savory tone... like I said- a great team!
Spread out your Puntarelle and orange segments decoratively, add the shallot here and there evenly using a fork and then scatter 7-8 finely chopped mint leaves here and there to the salad before adding the remaining dressing. Add a light drizzle of honey at the last minute and you are ready to serve!
With wonderful salads like this that we can enjoy in the Winter- we don't have to miss out on anything at all! It's like a plateful of Summer all over again!