As we are drawing near to the end of blood orange season (in my grocery store, at least) I thought it fitting to have just one more blood orange post for this season. I know I can’t possibly be the only blood-orange-obsessed person out there. They are just so beautiful! I love the striking red color of their insides, made all the more remarkable because their outsides look so much like a regular old orange. (So much so that when a careless shopper puts a regular navel orange in with the blood oranges, you’re likely to take that one home and not realize it’s a navel orange until you slice it and then be tempted to throw a big, fat tantrum. Or so I’ve heard.)
I’m so glad they are a winter fruit – it’s so lovely and appropriate that during the longest, coldest, grayest, dreariest month of the year, we are graced with cheery, bright, happy exotic-looking citrus. It’s like a consolation prize from Mother Nature. As easy as they are on the eyes, I also adore the flavor of blood oranges. They are a bit sweeter than navels, but still bright and citrusy. Sigh…. I love them….
Alas, they are only available up here during the month of January, so during that time, they frequently grace my grocery cart. Then I get them home and have to figure out how to showcase them. This salad was a fine idea. I’m always a fan of spinach salads and tend to prefer them over romaine lettuce salads. I loved the addition of the basil, too. But what really made this salad was the dressing, particularly the inclusion of Sichuan peppercorns. If you must, you can substitute regular black peppercorns. But I would highly, highly recommend hunting down Sichuan peppercorns. They add a smoky richness that really makes the dressing, and the whole salad sings as a result. So refreshing and delicious on a gray day.
Source: adapted from Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet by Padma Lakshmi
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs lime juice
1 tsp crushed Sichuan peppercorns
1/4 cup olive oil
5 ounces baby spinach leaves
3 cups fresh basil leaves, stems removed, coarsely torn
1 cup dried cranberries
4 blood oranges, peeled, pith removed, and sliced into circles
1 cup pepitas, roasted and salted
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, lime juice, peppercorns and salt. While whisking, drizzle in the olive oil and continue whisking until emulsified. Set aside.
In a large salad bowl, mix together the spinach, basil, and cranberries. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the greens and toss to combine. Lay the oranges on top of the greens and arrange nicely. Sprinkle the pepitas over top and serve immediately.