Most of the rest of the country would hardly call what we experience in California between November and March winter, but it’s the closest thing we’ve got. I much prefer balmy summer nights, but if there is any silver lining it is definitely the burst of color and flavor that winter citrus brings to the season. Locally, Meyer lemon trees explode with ripe, sweet, and bright fruit. One of the fondest memories I have of the early days when I first met my partner Lowell is cruising around neighborhoods near the restaurant, scouting the prolific trees and knocking on stranger’s doors to see if they’d be willing to let us harvest their extra fruit. Many folks revealed that they honestly had no idea what to do with so many lemons and were happy to have us take them off their hands, especially when a free lunch awaited them at the restaurant.
This salad was born out of experimentation with how many different ways I could preserve the abundant harvest of citrus and get it into one dish. From preserved lemons to dehydrated satsuma (another gleaned orchard that we visit annually with friends and family) to fresh rounds, the myriad of ways in which the tart, sweet citrus is delivered pleases the senses and doesn’t disappoint in a season otherwise scarce of fresh fruit to enjoy. The smoked chili lends a deep, layering heat that balances the sweetness of the fruit, so that you don’t feel as though you’re having dessert for your salad course and the vibrant herbaceous oil lets you get away with calling it a salad at all…
1 preserved Meyer lemon
(check out Chef Joe’s recipe here)
2 Cara Cara oranges
1 blood orange
1 small shallot
1 Tbl. toasted pistachio
1 Tbl. pitted, chopped olives
(salt-cured Kalamatas preferred)
1 cup loosely packed watercress
(any other spicy or wild green
or herb works as a substitute here)
2 cups olive oil
Place watercress in blender with olive oil. Blend for a few minutes on high, let steep for at least 30 minutes, and then strain out the olive oil. This will keep in the fridge for up to a month and can be used to finish a variety of dishes.
2 slices dehydrated Satsuma orange
1 smoked arbol chili, de-seeded
2 T fleur de sel or Maldon salt
Place arbol chili and two dehyrated satsumas rounds in a spice grinder and pulse until finely ground. Stir in sea salt.
Prep ahead: If you are preserving your own lemons, the process takes 3-4 weeks so you will have started long ago.
For the dehydrated Satsuma, slice the Satsuma into as thin a round as you can (leaving peel and pith intact) and place in dehydrator for 24 hours or until completely dry.
Remove and discard the pith and flesh from one preserved lemon, julienne the peel, and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Toast pistachios for 6-8 minutes or until fragrant and golden. Let cool, gently crush with the blunt side of a knife, and set aside.
Finely mince olive and set aside.
Supreme your larger citrus (Cara Cara, pomelo, grapefruit). Check out the video in the recipe for Handline’s Rosarito’s ceviche here to learn how to segment your citrus. Cut the smaller citrus (blood orange, tangerine) into rounds.
To assemble the salad, peel and thinly shave shallot and place citrus segments and rounds with shallot and julienned preserved lemon into a mixing bowl, then toss with olive oil and salt. Gently spread a dollop of crème fraiche on a plate. Pile citrus mixture onto plate, layering different kinds and shapes, then pile crushed pistachios and chopped olives over the top. Finish with a drizzle of watercress oil and sprinkle of chili salt.
Visit the Lowell’s website here!