I’m actually rather proud of this one, because in this day and age it’s not that easy to come up with something original in the food stakes. A quick google tends to prove that someone else has already done it. They say there are only seven possible stories in the world of fiction, it may well be the same with taste combinations that work but I’m claiming this one. I shall plant my orangey flag.
For those who are new readers, or established ones that haven’t been paying attention, I took a food club challenge to come up with a starter course involving chocolate. Sulking and some failures ensued, which you can read about here. But after abandoning the use of traditional barred chocolate, I looked to cocoa. I looked to what was left in the fridge that day. I looked to an established trend of putting balsamic vinegar with sweet stuff. Now just hold on a minute…….
So here it is, my tossily titled summer salad offering. Apart from being yummy, it’s vegetarian and vegan and depending on your nut usage possibly suitable for raw eaters. It’s packing in the vitamins and goodness from fresh oranges and spinach and makes a striking, colourful side dish. Refreshing and zingy with a lovely bittersweet finish, here’s how you do it:
Rosemary Infused Orange & Almond Salad with Cocoa-Balsamic Dressing
Serves 4-6 as a starter/side, 2-3 as a main
For the salad:
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 large oranges
1 large red onion
Fresh spinach leaves
1 cup blanched almonds
For the dressing:
8 tbspn extra virgin olive oil
4 tbspn balsamic vinegar
1 heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder
Pinch of sugar
I may take some hate for this, but I’m afraid you need to start early on this one, with a lot of peeling. You need four big, fresh oranges, peeled, segmented then peeled again. Yes, as in taking the thin skin/membrane off the orange segments. Yes it takes ages, but it’s worth it to give an easy, pith free eating texture. Try to keep the segments whole where you can but they may break when skinning. The easiest way I have found if to slit along the inner edge of the segment with a small, sharp paring knife then peel down each side before pulling off the bottom section of the segment skin slowly and carefully. Put the radio on and have a gin while you’re doing it if it helps.
Once this is done, arrange half of the orange pieces into the bottom of a large bowl. Bruise (bash) the rosemary stalks lightly and put on top, then cover with the rest of the oranges. Cover this dish well and refrigerate for at least three hours, ideally over night.
To make the dressing simply combine the listed ingredients into a suitable vessel and aggravate it vigorously to combine- I like to do this in a small (cleaned out, dry) water bottle. Be wary on tasting that the cocoa tends to stay on the surface and a little dip taste will seem a lot heavier on the cocoa than your end result. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks but wont mature past the fist couple of hours. It may become a bit cloggy on cooling due to the extra virgin olvie oil (yes, you do need extra virgin) so leave at room temperature for about an hour before you need to serve.
Now, back to the oranges. After suitable infusion time carefully remove the segments from the bowl to another bowl/container. Discard the rosemary stalks and excess juice. Peel and halve the red onion (use a couple of small ones if needs be) and slice them finely. Finely. Like, very finely. Like that bit in Goodfellas where they cut the garlic cloves with a razor. Fine. Gently combine with the oranges and leave for an hour before serving.
Waited your hour? Great. Arrange the orangey onion mix atop plenty of fresh spinach leaves, then scatter the almonds over. Dress then serve immediately, as a tasty non guilt vegan dish or as the side dish to a meaty main of your choosing. If you need to transport this or have made it well in advance, do not put together with the spinach or dress until the last minute or you’ll get soggy leaves.
I look forward to providing this to accompany some BBQ lamb or chicken kebabs if the summer ever arrives. I can testify, however, that this makes a satisfying and filling lunch without anything extra other than a bit of crusty bread if you like.
Variations- ok fine, you don’t need to do the rosemary infusion. If you skip this stage you will still get a lovely fresh, zingy result but it will be missing that subtle extra nuance of the rosemary. You could go with a mix of pink or ruby red grapefruit with the orange if you wish or this could be good with pommelo but avoid the sharper citrus like lime or lemon- big no. Raw cashews, hazelnuts or brazils could work instead of the almonds.