Supreme Citrus and Strawberry Salad (Very basic "how to" supreme citrus fruits)
Are you one of those lucky (or wise) people who has cultivated a conscientious yet carefree outlook? Because if you are, I admire you enormously. I could use some tips, if you can ever spare the time. I must have been born with an abnormal, enlarged worry gene. When things go wrong, I worry about everything. When things go right, I worry about when the trend will end. This has been a lifelong pattern, and I've done a pretty strong job ingraining it over the years. When I was seven, my mom took me to a neurologist to explore why I experienced such frequent and intense headaches. We were told I simply stressed out too much.
I used to think that by the time I hit thirty, I'd have things pretty well sorted. I imagined myself having created this zen, optimistic energy shield by then. In fact, I even used the certainty of my settled, adult self-confidence as justification for wanting to wear makeup in junior high. Because the raccoon-like effect of smearing eye liner around one's eyes has much greater and immediate reward potential to an awkward middle schooler than a few tricks with shadows and light could possibly have on someone who is already "old" anyway.
This year I turned thirty-and-enough-extra that I can understandably decline to share my age, and I worried insanely about gray hairs, wrinkles, belly fat, aches, pains, impaired vision, hearing and memory loss of the future. I still fret way too much and too often about what people think of me, in spite of the recognition that chances are half the people I worry about don't actually think about me at all. At the same time, though, I can acknowledge there is a little bit of "wiser" growing alongside the "older". I can shake off certain things I couldn't before. I can truly feel competitive with myself and let go of competitiveness with others, most of the time. And on a lesser scale, but just as impactful on a regular basis, I am finally becoming OK with showing up places alone. The reason I bring up the latter--for my birthday, Dave bought me a place in an Essential Knife Skills class at Sur La Table. I've never been to anything like that, although I've wanted to for a long time. As much as I love cooking, I'm very aware of my lack of real technical skills.
Although Dave's present was so thoughtful--really, really, great--I know my initial reaction was disappointing. All I could say was, "Do I have to go alone?". But I did go solo, in any case, and it was so much fun, in spite of the fact that this kind of thing is clearly a great "date night". It didn't matter, though. The atmosphere was friendly, the teacher (Danielle Edmonds) had a great way about her that was no-nonsense yet friendly, and there were plenty of occupying and ice-breaking activities like hand-washing, apron-donning, and knife exploring at your individual station.
Let me tell you, I got so much out of that class, foremost the realization that it was high time to sharpen my two good knives, which I've had for over 10 years. Important items that were emphasized from start to finish included: 1) the stance--dominant foot out almost perpendicular to your cutting area at your side, with the opposite hip about touching your cutting table in front of you; this is to ensure your knife action slices straight ahead, and not across your body; 2) placement of your knife when you're not cutting--in front of your board, blade facing away from you; 3) keeping your cutting surface continually clean--seems like a no-brainer, but I regularly cram loads of vegetables on the board, and it's a cutting not a storage board.
There are lots of other facts, tips and skills I can share another day, but this post is already getting overly long, and I want to tell you about one of my favorite parts (next to mincing), "supreming" citrus fruits. This is more aesthetic and show-offy than real skill, but also fun. It's a method for peeling your citrus and removing all the membranes, too. This can also be applied to cutting watermelon, pineapple, and any rounded fruit.
"The shape of an orange is round," Danielle repeated hypnotically, using her hands for added emphasis. Another no-brainer statement, but just think how tempting it is to slice straight down regardless (think pineapple, especially). To supreme citrus, you do get to make two initial straight cuts, thinly flattening out the top and bottom. But after that, you have to carefully aim for the natural curvature. Become one with the fruit, if you will. The first cut is the toughest. After that, you can turn the fruit slightly with each successive cut, and follow the line, turn by turn until you've removed the outer skin.
When the peel is all removed, you turn the fruit on it's side, and, steadying with your fingers in your "claw" (gripping in a manner that puts the knuckles against the knife so you don't actually cut yourself), carefully use your knife to remove the membranes segment by segment. This is easier than it sounds, though it can be fiddly depending on the size of your fruit.
For fun, I decided to practice my skills on a variety of citrus, starting with the big grapefruit to ease in. In one go, I supremed two grapefruits and a bunch of oranges: cara cara (my favorite, kind of a beach sunset, orangey color), navel, hamlin, and minneola. By the time I was finished, membranes were flying off like they were nothing.
Of course, my results were far from perfect. I let bits of membrane stick, and the majority of my segments were sliced into smaller segments. But it was surprisingly fun, and citrus really does have a way of producing carefree sunshine in the mind, especially on a rainy Sunday. Then I made this citrus and strawberry salad, and you know it was just supreme. ; )
Spinach and Strawberry Citrus Salad
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves, washed and patted dry
- 1 medium grapefruit, supremed/peeled and sectioned
- 2 oranges, same as above
- 1 1/2 cups strawberries, sliced
- 1/4 cup canola or olive oil
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- dash salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- In a serving bowl, combine spinach, citrus, and strawberries.
- Prepare dressing: combine remaining ingredients, oil through orange juice, in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Just prior to serving, drizzle dressing over salad, and toss to coat.