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11 COLORFUL SALADS TO BRIGHTEN YOUR HOLIDAY DINNERS

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the elaborate gift fruit baskets sold in food markets in December. Try as I can, I can’t peg when they disappeared; 10 years ago? More? It’s like seeing one of those catalogues with a Retro section filled with items you hadn’t realized were no longer on store shelves. What I do remember is the way they showcased the fresh citrus fruits that were just coming to market. True we had just celebrated the fall harvest, but it is a long way until spring and those grapefruit, oranges and kumquats, another thing I haven’t seen in a while, tasted like warm sunny days.

The baskets are gone, and their fruits now regulars in the produce section, but our love of the taste of citrus in December is still the same. Proof of this is the way we greet the arrival of boxes of Clementines and bags navel oranges in the markets at holiday time. So it’s only fitting we add some fruit to our holiday menus and the perfect place to do it is in the salads. Their job is to give our taste buds a refreshing change from the heavier entrée flavors, and what can do that better than a touch of citrus?

But citrus aren’t the only fruits that can be added to salads to lighten holiday menus, apples, pears, grapes and tomatoes, yes tomatoes they’re a fruit too, are available in the stores during the holidays. Any of them can perk up a salad, add color to the dish and zing to the entire meal. I’m offering recipes containing these fruits, most of which I’ve served. I know all will be welcome additions to your holiday meals. Since there are too many recipes, to write in standard ingredient listing form without making the post too long, I’ll present them in paragraph form as I did the side dishes last week; first the salad ingredients, then the dressings and finally, the instructions.

Remember the bitter, tough pith of citrus fruits, the white inner skin beneath the rind, must be removed. This is easiest done by cutting away the outer layers with a knife, but it’s acceptable in larger fruits to halve them and remove the sections with a serrated ‘grapefruit’ knife. Smaller fruits like Clementines can simply be peeled and the center membrane trimmed off with a scissors. Of course all seeds, even in grapes should be removed as well. The salads can be made ahead; the ingredients stored separately, the lettuce in water, and assembled just before serving. NOTE: appropriate bottled dressings are acceptable substitutes in most of these salads., but always add them just before serving.

CITRUS FRUITS:
Citrus in Champagne Vinaigrette: Serves 8-10
1)Meat of 2 navel oranges and 2 pink grapefruit, ½ cup toasted, slivered almonds. ½ cup thinly sliced red onion, 1 small head of radicchio and 2 heads red or green leaf lettuce in bite-sized pieces, 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese.
2) Dressing: Whisk ½ cup champagne vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, salt & pepper to taste.
3) Toss onion and lettuces, gently mix in fruit and nuts with dressing; sprinkle cheese over top.

Grapefruit Salad: Serves 6
1)Meat from 3 grapefruit, 2 thinly sliced pears,1/4 cup craisins, ¼ cup chopped, toasted pecans, 5 cups mixed greens, 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
2)Dressing: Whisk ¼ cup grapefruit juice,2 Tbs. EACH oil and balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper to taste
3) Gently toss all ingredients with the dressing. Top with the cheese.

Spicy Orange Salad: Serves 6
1) Meat of 6 navel oranges, 4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce,1 Tbs. minced fresh cilantro
2) Dressing: Whisk 2 Tbs. oliveoil,1/4 tsp. EACH ground coriander and ground cumin, pinch cayenne pepper, and 1 clove garlic mashed with ½ tsp. salt
2) Gently toss oranges, lettuce and dressing, garnish with cilantro

Church Salad: Serves 6
1) 1 lb. Romaine cut in bite sized pieces, (1) 8oz.can mandarin oranges,1/2 small white onion thinly sliced
2)1/3 cup orange juice, 2Tbs.oil, 1 heaping Tbs. poppy seeds
3) Simmer juice, oil and seeds over low heat for 10 min. or until seeds soften. Cool completely. Gently toss with lettuce and oranges just before serving.

Nutty Orange Salad: Serves 8
1) 2 sliced scallions, 1 cup sliced celery, 6 cups Romaine in bite sized piece, ( 1) 15 oz. can
mandarin oranges or 4 peeled Clementines in sections, ½ cup sliced almonds, 5 Tbs. sugar
2) Dressing: Whisk together 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil, 2 Tbs. sugar,1 Tbs. dried parsley, pinch cayenne pepper, salt & pepper to taste
3) Stir almonds and 3 Tbs. sugar in a skillet, until sugar melts and coats nuts, cool on foil. Toss salad ingredients gently with dressing just before serving. Garnish with sugared nuts.

PEARS
Craisin-Pear Salad:* Serves 4
1) 1 large, ripe pear cored and diced, 3 cups salad greens, ¼ cup craisins
2) Dressing: Whisk 2 Tbs. oil, 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar, ¼ tsp. Dijon mustard, salt & pepper
3) Toss all ingredients gently with dressing just before serving

Pear-Spinach Salad with Pecans: Serves 8
1) 2 ripe pears thinly sliced, 13 oz. baby spinach (2 pkgs.), 1 small, white onion thinly sliced,–1/4 cup melted butter, ¾ cup light brown sugar( divided), ¾ tsp. cinnamon (divided), 1 ½ cups pecan halves.
2) Dressing: Whisk 1/3 cup oil, ½ cup white wine vinegar, ¼ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ cup sugar, salt &pepper
3) Mix and spread on a foil-lined sheet, butter, ½ cup sugar, ½ tsp. cinnamon and nuts. Bake at 350 deg. for 20 min.stirring. Cool and separate nuts with a fork. Gently toss salad ingredients in a bowl, add dressing and garnish with nuts.

NOTE: *Craisins are sweetened dried cranberries. To make your own, Prick 2 cups cranberries with a pin. Boil 1 cups sugar and ¼ cup water until sugar dissolves, stir in berries, then transfer to a foil-lined sheet and bake at 300 deg. for 45 min. Spread on waxed paper and when almost dry roll in granulated sugar if a sweeter berry is wanted. Can be used as decorations on desserts or sprinkled over ice

GRAPES
Grapes and Baby Greens with Maple Dressing: Serves 6
1) 1 small yellow apple thinly sliced, 6 cups baby mixed greens, 1 cup seedless red grapes halved.
2)Dressing: Combine 1 Tbs. maple syrup, 1 thinly sliced scallion, 1tsp. lemon juice, ½ cup raspberry juice, whisk in 2 Tbs. olive oil
3) Arrange greens, top with fruits and drizzle with dressing.

Grapes with Honey Lime Dressing: Serves 4
1) 1 cup halved seedless grapes, 2 cups baby spinach leaves, ½ head radicchio-leaves in bite-sized pieces,
2)Stir together 1 Tbs. honey,3 Tbs. lime juice, whisk in 3 Tbs. oil, salt & pepper
3) Toss salad ingredients gently together, add dressing just before serving and toss again

APPLES

Nutty Apple Salad: Serves 4
1) 2 tart green apples in ½ inch dice, 2 Tbs. toasted slivered almonds,3 or 4 Belgian endives (see step #3)*
2) Combine 1 Tbs. lemon juice, 4 tsp.oil,1 tsp. minced garlic, pinch salt
3) Wash the endive with a damp cloth, thinly slice crosswise and mix in a bowl with apples and nuts, toss with dressing. OR Serve this as individual salads. Chop the apples in finer dice and mix with almonds in a bit of dressing. Separate the endive leaves into 12 or 16 equal piles, depending on size. Divide piles among 4 plates and fill each with a bit of the fruit-nut mix, drizzle with remaining dressing.
NOTE* Belgian endive leaves can be held by the stem end and eaten by hand, rather like a slice of pizza.In this way they can be used as dippers, like chips, to hold small amounts of food.

Apple-Jicama Salad: Serves 6
1)1medium jicama, 3 red apples, 1 small onion thinly sliced, 3 cups romaine leaves in bite-sized pieces, ¼ cup chopped fresh mint.
2) Dressing: Stir together ½ cup orange juice, 1 Tbs. EACH lime juice, cider vinegar, brown sugar, 1 Tbs. oil, to dissolve sugar
3)Cut jicama and cored apple into matchsticks. Toss with lettuce, mint and dressing. Garnish with mint leaves if desired.


Tomatoes

Tomato- Spinach Salad: Serves 4
1) 3 cups baby spinach leaves, ½ small white onion thinly sliced, 12-14 grape tomatoes sliced crosswise in 3 pieces
2) Dressing: ¼ cup of a good bottled Vidalia Onion dressing or more to taste
3) Combine ingredients in a bowl and drizzle dressing over, then toss gently.

Salad Margherita; Serves 4
1)3 cups baby spinach, or torn green leaf lettuce, 3 plum tomatoes quartered lengthwise then halved into eight pieces each, ½ small onion diced, 1/3 cup fresh mozzarella, slivered, ¼ cup fresh basil leaves chopped
2) Dressing: A ¼ cup good bottled Caesar dressing- or to taste
3) Combine ingredients in a bowl and drizzle dressing over, then toss gently. Garnish with Basil leaves

Happy Holidays Everyone!!

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