Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Raw kale, red cabbage and blood orange salad with hazelnuts and a toasted sesame oil & ginger vinaigrette

The saving grace of winter is definitely citrus fruits. They provide not only much needed vitamin C for our body, but they also give brightness, flavor, vibrancy and color —oh glorious color— to our sweet and savory dishes.

I’ve been cooking with all sorts of citrus fruits the past month or so (exhibit number one was the meringues with blood oranges I shared with you last week) and plan on keep doing so until the end of April. No one can stop me. One of the ways I’ve been using the season’s bounty of citrus is by adding them raw to salads. I know, predictable, not very original, yet wonderful in every possible way.

Sometimes, when I post salad recipes here on the blog, I wonder what you think about them. I mean, does anyone need a recipe for a salad? Isn’t it something we all make instinctively? Isn’t it all a matter of taste and preference and what-do-I-have-in-the-fridge-that-I-don’t-want-to-go-to-waste kind of thing? I guess it is.

On the other hand, however, I tend to view it differently; I enjoy seeing salads on blogs, magazines and cookbooks. I am reminded of a forgotten ingredient, of a way to pair it with something that I hadn’t had in a while. I get inspired to try something new, to combine known ingredients in a different way. That’s what cooking is all about, really. Trying new things out for size. It’s not always about reinventing the wheel, but polishing it a bit or oiling its rusty parts.

So when I say you must try this salad, it’s because I myself by eating it was reminded about what a wonderful combination blood oranges and red cabbage is; what fresh ginger and toasted sesame oil can do to an otherwise simple vinaigrette; how kale can be the perfect medium to join these ingredients together and how sweet it is this time of year, when it is at its prime. I was reminded and awakened to all this and I hope, in some way, it will inspire you to try something new.

It is full of textures, and the flavor is bright and zingy and all that it promises to be; simple and scrumptious. It wakes up your taste buds with crunchy, squeaky cabbage, crispy, toasted nuts, chewy kale that fills you up with its robust, bittersweet flavor; with the glistening blood oranges bursting with juices and flavor —acidity, bitterness and sweetness at the same time; with the vinaigrette that’s lively and bright, with toasty aroma and flavor from the sesame oil, zing from the vinegar and blood orange zest that adds texture apart from flavor, subtle sweetness from the honey that ties the whole thing together and last but not least, pepperiness and zest from the fresh ginger. Perfect winter salad, if you ask me. Try it, and I’d love to know how you liked it.

Raw kale, red cabbage and blood orange salad with hazelnuts and a toasted sesame oil and ginger vinaigrette

Asian toasted sesame oil is completely different to regular sesame oil so don’t substitute it or you’ll miss out on that incredible aroma and flavor of toasted sesame. It is ideal for dressings (but not for cooking).

I have a sneaking suspicion that Savoy cabbage would work great here instead of kale. Hint for those who can’t get a hold of curly kale.
If you can’t find blood oranges where you live, regular oranges would work just fine, especially if they’re slightly bittersweet.

Pairs nicely with chicken and red meat, and you can have it with some fresh bread for a light lunch.

Yield: 4 servings


for the salad
165 g fresh whole curly kale leaves (after removing the veins and stems they were about 100 g)
140 g red cabbage, sliced thinly
2 blood oranges
A handful of blanched hazelnuts

for the vinaigrette
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1½ Tbsp red-wine vinegar
1 Tbsp runny honey
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
Zest from 1 blood orange
Freshly ground white pepper

Special equipment: rasp grater

In a small skillet or sauté pan add the blanched hazelnuts and place over a medium heat. Toast the nuts, stirring often so they don’t get burned, until they become fragrant and brown lightly. Transfer them to a small bowl and allow to cool. Then chop them roughly.

Rinse the kale leaves under cold running water and dry them very well with a clean kitchen towel or with absorbent kitchen paper.
Remove the central, thick vein of each kale leaf as well as the stems, and discard them. Cut with your hands the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

The way to cut the 2 blood oranges is by using a sharp knife. First, cut off the peel, then the white pith all around the fruit, exposing the flesh, and finally, cut free the flesh of the fruit from the membranes that are in between the wedges. Squeeze the juice out of the membranes and into a small bowl. You will use the juice in the vinaigrette.

In that same small bowl with the blood orange juice, add the olive oil and sesame oil, the vinegar, honey, ginger, blood orange zest, a little salt and pepper and whisk well to combine. Give it a taste and add more salt if necessary.

In a large bowl, add the kale and red cabbage and massage gently with your fingers. Add ¾ of the vinaigrette and mix gently with your hands so that everything glistens.
Arrange on a large platter or wide salad bowl and top with the blood orange segments. Scatter the chopped hazelnuts over the top and drizzle with the rest of the vinaigrette.

Serve immediately.


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