Sunday, January 17, 2010

Citrus fruits revisited

Right in the middle of the gray winter, some rays of color appear in the form of the gorgeous grapefruits, lemons, oranges, clementines, and limes. Isn't that strange? How the cruel, rough winter gives life to such bright and vivid colored fruit? Like nature trying to battle its blues through the creation of small miracles.

These jewels of winter are the juiciest and most flavorful fruits of the season. They're so incredibly versatile making even a novice cook seem seasoned, a simple dish seem complex.
So many different cultures have incorporated citrus fruits in their everyday meals and their celebratory feasts. Who isn't familiar with the classic French recipe of duck á l'orange, or the Italian limoncello? What would the Mexican ceviche be without lemons or Thai tiger prawn dishes without limes?

Right here, in my little expat kitchen, the night before last, a salad composed almost entirely out of citrus fruits was about to make its debut on the dinner table. Don't let me confuse you though. I'm not talking about a bland after-dinner fruit salad. This is a proper dinner salad that hits you in the face with its hotness and sourness, and titillates your taste buds with its sweet nuances.

The protagonists? Ruby red grapefruit, orange, lemon, kumquat. The extras? Olive oil, red chili, peppercorns, mint leaves.

The acidity of the grapefruit and kumquat and the sweetness of the orange complement each other and welcome the addition of heat from the chili and the presence of body from the flavored olive oil. The black and pink peppercorns enter and steal the scene for a moment with their pungent flavor and crunchy texture.

When you bite into the fruits, you can taste little explosions of sharp nectar in your mouth and immediately you feel your lips burning from those devilish chilies and then suddenly the mint comes into play to soothe and refresh your senses.

It's a perfect roller coaster of flavors but beware. This salad is better not eaten on its own. It's too powerful, at least for my palate. It definitely needs a side of a nicely grilled beef rib-eye steak or entrecote, to balance out the sour and hot notes, or if you prefer fish, a tuna steak or salmon, also grilled, would be perfect.
I paired it with a grilled veal steak and it was a match made in heaven.

Hot and Sour Salad with Grapefruit, Oranges, and Kumquats
Adapted from Greek Gourmet

Try to use the sweetest oranges you can find in this salad, since the grapefruit and kumquats tend to be very sour.

Yield: 6-8 servings


for flavored olive oil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Peel of 1 orange, cut into strips
Peel of 1/2 lemon, cut into strips
1 or 2 fresh red chilies, cut in half lengthwise
2 1/2 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 tsp ground coriander

for salad
2 large ruby red or pink grapefruit, cut in wedges with pips, peel and white pith removed
2 large oranges, cut in wedges with pips, peel and white pith removed
5 kumquats, seeded and sliced
1 Tbsp pomegranate seeds
1/3 tsp salt, preferably Fleur de Sel
A pinch of good quality sweet paprika
4-5 small mint sprigs

The process of flavoring the olive oil must be done very carefully as to not burn the oil.
Pour the oil in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the orange and lemon peel, crushed pink and black peppercorns, coriander, and chilies. Heat mixture over very low heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Once you're able to smell the aromas of the fruit and chillies, about 5-8 minutes in, remove from the heat and let stand, covered, until the mixture has completely cooled.

You can prepare the flavored oil the day before you serve the salad, keeping it in a glass bowl, covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature.

The way to cut the grapefruit and oranges is by using a sharp knife. First cut the peel off, then the white pith, and finally cut free the flesh of the fruit from the membranes.

To serve the salad, arrange the orange, grapefruit, and kumquat pieces in a salad bowl or platter. Remove the chilies, orange and lemon peel from the flavored oil, and pour the oil all over the citrus fruits. Sprinkle with salt and paprika and adorn the platter with the mint sprigs and pomegranate seeds.
Serve immediately.


  1. Winter jewels, citrus. We have a lemon tree in our living room currently. It only has two lemons, turning yellow ever so slowly. I'm anxious to pull the fruit, checking it daily. Your salad sounds quite nice. The ruby red, I'm craving it.

  2. I love the sound of a fruit salad for dinner! Especially in the midst of winter - this must of been like a breath of fresh air. It's gorgeous! I would love it alongside fish.

  3. Tracy, what a beautiful image, a lemon tree in your living room. I would be tempted to pull the fruit too.

    Cinnamon-Girl, it really felt as fresh as a summer salad. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Magda,

    I love the colors of this salad! It looks fresh and delicious!

    I am doing a cookbook giveaway on my blog. Let me know if you'd like to participate. Have a great evening!


  5. Μάγδα, σε ευχαριστώ για τα καλά σου λόγια στο blog μου... αλλά ούτε η δική σου παρουσίαση και φωτογραφία δεν πάνε πίσω...
    σου εύχομαι πάντα χρωματιστές επιτυχίες...

  6. I love wintry citrus fruit salads, and your take is much more optimistic than mine on citrus in winter, as I often feel it is nature throwing us a bone--as if to say "Hey guys! Yeah, I know there's barely any sunlight, it's really cold out and the weather is awful, but at least the citrus fruit is really good, right?" :-)

    I've never though to add heat to any saldas we've done--this is definitely something to try out!

  7. Colorful food has no equiv: simply vivid, vibrant. For some reason, I have always been turned down by kumquats but with that recipe of yours, it is back in my favorable opinions.

  8. Hi! I just wanted to tell you how tasty your recipes look. As a foreigner living in a new country, I appreciate the mixture of different influences and the attempt to learn a new cuisine while adding many of your own flavors. Can't wait to test out this citrus fruit salad recipe.

  9. Nisrine, thanks for the opportunity.

    Ελένη, σ'ευχαριστώ.

    elizabeth, those red chilies really do transform the salad. Dried chili flakes can do the trick also.

    SLloyd, thanks for stopping by. I was also a bit apprehensive about the use of kumquats since I've eaten them mostly in marmalades, but I was converted when I tasted them in this salad.

    themuffintinpost, it is a challenge isn't it? Trying to embrace new food cultures. But it's exciting and refreshing as well. Thanks for dropping by.

  10. Looks lovely....right up my street. I think it would be great with poached chicken too....and definitely with some yoghurt!!!!!!!!

  11. Magda love the colours and flavour of this salad. I will have to go to Corfu to bring some kumquats as I have seen them only once years ago in the farmers market.

  12. Kitchen Butterfly, chicken would be a good pairing. Going the healthy route all the way.

    Ivy, thank you. I was just discussing that with a friend of mine from Athens. Unfortunately it is very difficult to find kumquats there. It's a shame they don't make the ones from Corfu widely available.

  13. I love, love citrus and your dish sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing :)

  14. Lovely salad! So refreshing!

  15. kumquats are available in gourmet supermarkets like vasilopoulos, but in crete, i can find them growing on a tree in the iddle of town - it is full of them at the moment, which is sad, becos no one eats or collects them

    this is the first time i have seen kumquats being used in this way - nrmally you only see them in jams and marmalades, and in the typical ways the corfiots use them (liqueur and spoon sweet)

  16. Mediterranean kiwi, that IS really sad. They're such great fruit it's a shame they're not eaten or used more widely in Greece. Here, in the Netherlands they import them and they're quite expensive.