Winter Citrus Salad

Vegan Winter Citrus Salad

Salads don’t have to be complicated.

Sometimes, in fact, the best salads are the simplest.

I know I’m guilty of overloading my salads. What will a little cheese hurt? Some nuts, some legumes, some olives, why not the whole kitchen sink?!

But if you’re able to exercise a little self-restraint, you might be surprised by the clean flavors of a simple salad.

The slightly bitter crunch of the lettuce, the zing and tastebud tickling tartness of fresh citrus, and the smooth and luscious texture of extra virgin olive oil. That’s all you really need!

Vegan Winter Citrus Salad in a Large White Bowl

Plus, simple salads are friendly to nearly any eater. They’re naturally gluten free, dairy free, nut free, soy free, vegan, and vegetarian. Amazing!

This winter citrus salad highlights three delicious citrus fruits: lemon, orange, and grapefruit. The ultimate trifecta.

Lemon and grapefruit give the salad and dressing a nice tart zing, while the natural sweetness of orange balances it out. Rather than dousing the salad in oil, I let the citrus flavors shine. This dressing is heavy on the citrus zest and juice, and light on the oil. And you won’t even miss it!

This light and bright salad goes great with a heavier main dish, like Oven Roasted Pork,  Creamy Potato Fennel Soup with Pancetta Croutons, or Seared Pork Chops with Mustard Pan Sauce.

Vegan Winter Citrus Salad with Baby Greens

Winter Citrus Salad

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Prep20 mins
Total20 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • Juice of 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 additional large navel orange
  • 1 large ruby red grapefruit
  • 8 oz mixed baby greens

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, dijon mustard, parsley, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside for now.
  • Next, segment the orange. Here’s how it’s done: Cut off the top and bottom of the orange to expose the flesh. Put one of the cut sides down on the cutting board, then use your knife to slice off the skin and pith off the orange. You’ll do this in sections, by slicing off one section of the skin/pith with your knife, from top to bottom of the orange, following the curve of the orange, then rotating the orange and continuing slicing off the skin until all that’s left is a beautiful skinless & pithless orange.
  • Next, grab a paring knife & carefully slice each segment of fruit out from it’s papery membranes. To do this, slide your knife between the left and right membranes, releasing the fruit segment in one piece. As you cut out each segment, place it in a bowl for later. Continue until all the segments are cut out of the orange. Discard the remaining membrane.
  • Repeat this process with the grapefruit.
  • Divide the baby greens into 4 salad bowls, and divide the orange and grapefruit segments on top of each. Drizzle with salad dressing and enjoy.
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Sage and Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto

Before last year, I had never made a risotto at home.

Risotto is one of those dishes you hear horror stories about. Everyone comments on how it requires so much stirring and it’s easy to accidentally burn or have stick to the bottom of the pot.

These scare tactics had kept me away from homemade risotto deliciousness for far too long.

Then, one day, Aaron beat me to it.

We have this thing we like to do, where Aaron cooks dinner for us once or twice a week. He usually picks something at random from one of the bazillion cookbooks we I own, and surprises me with some deliciousness.

My mouth dropped when I came home to a delicious batch of homemade Cauliflower, Onion, and Greens Risotto.

And he said it was EASY!

Whaaaat?? Had I been deceived all these years??? (The answer is yes)

Sigh. Now it was my turn to conquer risotto.

In all honesty, it IS actually really easy. Yes, it requires patient stirring, but really, how hard is stirring?? Use a nonstick pan and you don’t even have to worry about sticking. Winning.

Here’s the basic framework for a risotto:

  1. Saute some onions. In a little butter or oil. But don’t let them caramelize, you just want them to soften and become translucent.
  2. Add the arborio rice. Sauté for a couple minutes with the onions to give each grain of rice some texture.
  3. Evaporate off some alcohol. Add a generous splash of white wine or vermouth for depth of flavor, and wait till it’s pretty much cooked off.
  4. Ladle in warm broth, 1 scoop at a time. This is the part everyone trips over, but it’s actually so easy. You just scoop some broth into the rice pan and continue to stir until it is absorbed. Repeat until you’ve added all the broth and the rice is tender.
  5. Stir in your mix-ins. This is where you get to add tons of salty savory cheese, roasted veggies, browned meats, fresh herbs, etc. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and you’re done!

Okay really, how simple is that?

And the best part? The endless combinations of flavors you can riff on. Basic risotto with just butter and cheese is basically a blank canvas, waiting for deliciousness. And it’s an easy gluten-free Italian option that everyone can enjoy at dinner.

Since it’s just become fall, and squash is everywhere, I went classic with the classic pairing of butternut squash and sage.

Roasted butternut squash is naturally creamy, so it blends right in with the smooth rich texture of risotto. Its subtle sweetness pairs well with the richness of the cheesy buttery rice, and the sage is just the right pop of freshness to round it out.

Give this recipe a try this week. Promise you can do it, and you won’t be disappointed w. the results.

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto-7

Sage and Butternut Squash Risotto

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Prep20 mins
Cook1 hr 10 mins
Total1 hr 30 mins
Servings: 8

Ingredients 

  • One 2 1/2 pound butternut squash, ends removed, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon for finishing
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1 lb arborio rice
  • 10 fresh sage leaves, minced, plus 1 additional tablespoon minced fresh sage, reserved
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine, like chardonnay
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, or parmesan romano blend

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the cubed butternut squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Put the tray in the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender. When it is done cooking, remove from the oven and set aside.
  • Next, add 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil to a large nonstick skillet. Warm over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender and translucent but not at all browned. If they start to get any color, turn down the heat and continue cooking until softened. This should only take a few minutes.
  • Meanwhile, pour the chicken or vegetable stock into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  • Once the onions are softened, add the arborio rice, sage, and garlic to the pan. Increase the heat to medium & sauté for a minute or two, until the garlic and sage are fragrant and the rice is coated with the butter and spices.
  • Add the white wine and cook until mostly evaporated. Next, add one ladle of warm stock to the pot and stir until the rice has absorbed most of it. Continue adding the stock, one or two ladles at a time,stirring until it has been absorbed by the rice before adding more. Continue until all the broth has been added and absorbed and the rice is tender but still has a little bite, about 25 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, and stir in 1 additional tablespoon of butter, the parmesan cheese, and additional 1 tablespoon fresh minced sage. Stir to combine well, the gently fold in the roasted butternut squash. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and enjoy right away.
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Barley Salad with Feta and Orange Shallot Vinaigrette

Barley Salad With Feta and Orange Shallot Vinaigrette Served in a Large Bowl

The transition between summer and fall is one of the most fun to play with in the kitchen.

You can still find delicious summer tomatoes and herbs, but hints of fall begin to creep in. Succulently sweet figs, juicy persimmons, freshly picked walnuts, and everyone’s favorite, pumpkin.

So what does the logical cook do?

Throw it all together in a bowl, of course!

Simply follow the formula: grain + nut + cheese + vegetables + vinaigrette.

You can’t go wrong. And it works at any time of year.

This particular weekend, I chose the following:

  • Pearled Barley. It’s relatively quick cooking & doesn’t require a pre-soak, holds it shape & texture well, and absorbs the flavors of whatever vinaigrette you pour over it.
  • Walnuts. California’s first walnut harvest just took place, so, you know, I had to.
  • Feta Cheese. Probably my #1 go-to. I’m sort of obsessed with the mild tang it provides.
  • Cherry Tomatoes. For a juicy pop of freshness in each bite, extra color, and a hint of sweetness.
  • Baby Spinach. Perfect for lightening up a grain-based salad & adding extra nutrients.
  • Orange. Because… I haven’t made an orange vinaigrette in awhile, and it gives the salad a little more of a fall/winter vibe.
  • Shallot. More mild than an onion & perfect for some extra bite without being overpowering.

I love giant salads like these, because they’re just so easy. 

Prep all the individual components (which is pretty easy here- just boil the barley, zest & juice some citrus, quarter some cherry tomatoes, roughly chop baby spinach, and mince a shallot), and toss it all together.

Goes great with some fresh fish (we served it with tuna), grilled shrimp, or any other light protein you enjoy.

Barley Salad With Feta and Homemade Vinaigrette

Barley Salad with Feta and Orange Shallot Vinaigrette

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Prep25 mins
Cook1 hr
Total1 hr 25 mins
Servings: 8

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups uncooked pearled barley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of 1 cara cara orange
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning to taste
  • 5 oz baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup raw walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

Instructions

  • Place the barley in a large saucepan and fill the pot with water. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and let cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until al dente. Drain, place in a large serving bowl, and set aside to cool.
  • While the barley cools, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the orange zest and juice, lemon juice, shallot, olive oil, and kosher salt and pepper.
  • When the barley is room temperature, add the spinach, walnuts, feta cheese, and cherry tomatoes to the serving bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the top and toss to combine. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, and enjoy! Goes great with a high quality piece of seafood.
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