fat free opinions on a food centric life

Green Salad with Blood Oranges, Apples, and Hazelnuts

I have a page torn from the October 2010 issue of Cooking Light that has been in and around various rooms in our house.  I see it most when I’m not interested in it, wedged between food magazines stacked at the end of the sofa, sticking out from between the pages of one of the cookbooks I’ve been leafing through, or inserted next to the telephone with take-out menus and reminders of dentist appointments.  The now wrinkled page is from The Hungry Traveler section and sports a recipe on each of its sides, but I have paid little attention to one of them because the salad is what originally caught my eye.  It had all the right flavors in it for what I thought was a special occasion salad — one served on a holiday.  I suppose it caught my eye because I’d been making a salad somewhat like it for years, but there was a bit of a different spin on this one, and so I tore it out before tossing the magazine in one of my manic magazine thinning moments.

I’ve never been able to completely understand how this happens.  So many bits and pieces of our lives are tucked here and there — or not — and are so much more important, yet are lost.  We took the time to put them in a special pile of special things so we could put a finger on them in  a second when needed, priding ourselves for our organizational skills.  But when we need them, we can’t find them.  Clearly, a file folder isn’t our idea of being organized.  Perhaps I should rethink the entire thing, allowing the important things to also slip between magazines or beneath the sofa, trusting that when needed, they’d miraculously appear.

So why this salad?

I think it was the dressing.  I’m always ready to try something light and flavorful, but different than our usual citrus vinaigrette — if you can call it that.  We squeeze citrus over our salads before drizzling extra virgin olive oil and call it dressing.  But once in a while, I do enjoy actually making dressing and this one included dried apricots.  When I first read it, I thought the apricots were mixed into the salad because that’s what I’ve done over the years — their bit of sweetness mixed with the other ingredients is wonderful.  I was wrong, and when I finally looked carefully realized the apricots are blended in.

What a delicious difference.

I suppose I should be thankful the torn page has not been lost or I’d have never realized my mistake.  And I’d throw it in the trash at this point, but the recipe on the other side has finally gotten my attention, so I know I’ll have to make that soon to relieve  the poor page from its duty.

Green Salad with Blood Oranges, Apples, and Hazelnuts

Dressing Ingredients

1 T minced shallot

1-1/2 T champagne vinegar

1 T lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 T honey

1 T Dijon mustard

1 dried apricot, chopped

1 T hazelnut oil

2 T extra virgin olive oil

pinch of sea salt

pinch of cracked pepper

Salad Ingredients

2 big handfuls salad greens

1 Belgian endive, sliced lengthwise

1 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

1/4 c. hazelnuts, halved

1-2 slices prosciutto, sliced into strips

1/2 apple, such as Honeycrisp

1 blood orange, peeled, sliced and segmented

Directions:

  1. Make the dressing first by combining the first six ingredients in a blender, or in a narrow container and use an immersion blender to process.  Add the oils slowly while blending.  Season and taste, then set aside.
  2. Add the greens to a large salad bowl or serving platter and toss lightly with a bit of the dressing.  Add the remaining ingredients either directly to the greens, or plate the greens, then add the remaining ingredients.
  3. Drizzle additional dressing over the salad, or serve on the side.

Notes:

  • This is one of the most flavorful, elegant salads I’ve ever had and I doubt I’ll ever tire of it.
  • The dried apricot adds a truly wonderful flavor to the dressing and is sweet enough that reducing the amount of honey by half would work well enough.
  • I’ve tried the dressing unblended, and it’s still wonderful.  Just mince everything well, then drizzle in the oil as you whisk.
  • If you’re not into the prosciutto, it’s great without it, but the saltiness is quite nice with the apples, and the tartness of the citrus.
  • If blood oranges aren’t available, regular oranges are great, too — just not as tart.  Ruby red grapefruit would also be nice.
  • I used raw hazelnuts, but I know they can be pricy, so pecans are good, as are walnuts which are probably best.
  • Hazelnut oil is one of those pantry ingredients I always have.  I started buying it years ago when a local restaurant created a salad I loved and shared the dressing ingredients with Bon Appetit — one of which was hazelnut oil.  It’s got a wonderful flavor, but needs to be used sparingly.
  • Any kind of apple will work with this mix — just leave the peelings on for that added zip in flavor.
  • If you’re not a fan of blue-veined cheese, then try Feta, or for a more mild, creamy flavor, goat’s cheese.  Shaved Parmesan works as well.
  • The Belgian endive helps make that perfect forkful — it can be bitter by itself and is an acquired taste, but mixed with the other ingredients is wonderful.  Try adding arugula to the mix instead, or radicchio.  Or both.
  • Have fun experimenting with this salad — it seems you can’t go wrong with the possibilities.

Progress Report:

I wanted to update you on my progress on eating more healthily, working on more consistent exercise, and generally looking at my food-centric life just to hold myself accountable.  And guess what?  With just a couple of days shy of six weeks, I’ve lost 9 lbs. so am more than on track to make my goal by September of 50 lbs. lost and getting my hands on that new camera.  Funny thing, though.  I’ve sort of forgotten about the camera which is wonderful.  My husband has been working on his health as well (he’s down 13 lbs.), so that has made it fun — yes, fun.  And it doesn’t feel like we’re on a diet because we’re not following a particular “recipe” for losing weight or getting into shape.  We’re basically counting calories without splitting the exactness hair that calorie counting feels like at times, paying close attention to eating three distinct meals a day with a morning and afternoon snack, and avoiding carb-filled food such as bread, pasta, and rice.  My husband has been more diligent about exercise than I have, but we are managing to get about four days of seven in and when we do, shoot for a full hour’s workout which is heavy on cardio.  I’ve discovered that I’ve spent most of my life not eating until noon which is an extremely bad habit.  The other thing I’ve learned in counting calories is that I have not been consuming enough calories — or in many cases, a much too low number of calories until dinner.  So it seems at least with my body, the old eat to lose weight theory seems to work.  We’ve had dessert a couple of times since beginning because we like dessert, and remember, we’re not on a “diet.”  I’m actually using my Wii and enjoy it.  I weigh-in each morning (this was a challenge for me at first, because I’m used to weighing only once a week) and then if I’m not planning on a walk, then I do the strength-building exercises, the yoga, the balancing, and cardio workouts interchangeably.  It’s surprisingly more challenging than I originally thought and I do work up a sweat.  To help keep myself focused, I did take photos of myself and they’re on my desktop.  I don’t enjoy looking at them, but do.  So there you go.  Onward and downward, as the hubster says!  Wish me luck over the next day or so as I look to pass that magic first 10 lbs. lost!