Thursday, December 17, 2009


At my house in southern Spain, holiday cheer is an evergreen tree glowing with bright golden ornaments. That would be the clementine tree on my patio, or the lemon tree on the edge of the vegetable garden or the neighbor’s pair of orange trees right above me. In Spain, citrus trees laden with fruit herald the winter holidays.

The gorgeous fruit finds its way into capacious Christmas stockings, into bowls, and onto festive holiday plates. Fresh-squeezed orange juice is pure bliss for a holiday breakfast or combined with bubbly cava for parties.  Big kids and little kids adore the juicy clementines, those easy-to-peel tangerines, with their tangy-sweet flavor. My son Ben, home last weekend with an incipient cold, ate about a dozen of them (and seems to have beat the flu bug, though the big dose of vitamin C did not protect him from injuring his knee while surfing).  

Last year I spent the holidays with my other son, Daniel, and his family in Atlanta. At a nearby supermarket, I found boxes of Spanish clementines at a great price. We went through crates of them before the stocks disappeared.

I go way back with my “orange Christmas.” Years ago, when I lived in a ramshackle village house, every winter I made marmalade with the bitter Seville oranges that grew in the back garden. Marmalade making was a three-day procedure, allowing the sliced oranges to soak, cook, and soak again in order to develop the pectin. I gave marmalade away as gifts and sold jars of it from my house.

I’m posting two citrus recipes. One is an adaptation of a salad found in tapa bars in southern Spain (called remojón, salmorejo or ensalada malagueña, depending where you are). The traditional recipe calls for bacalao, salt cod, which is toasted and shredded, topping the oranges. My version uses shrimp and I serve it as a starter for Christmas dinner. The other is also a salad, a contrast of juicy clementines, crisp fennel and smooth sweet potatoes. It makes a fine side dish on a buffet table. I took it to a brunch while visiting friends in Seattle last New Year’s.

Ensalada Malagueña
Málaga Salad with Oranges and Olives

A photo of this salad (by Michelle Chaplow) appears on the front cover of my newest cookbook, TAPAS—A BITE OF SPAIN (see the column to the left; click to order the book from Santana Books).

Makes 12 tapas or 6 starters.  

Salad greens
4 oranges, peeled and pith removed
1 small red onion or 6 scallions, thinly sliced
10 green or black pitted olives
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
Pinch of red chile flakes
18 cooked and peeled shrimp

Arrange salad greens on individual salad plates.

Slice the oranges and cut into bite-sized pieces. Arrange them on the greens. Scatter the onions on top. Arrange the olives on the oranges.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, oil, vinegar and chile.

Scatter the shrimp on top of the oranges. Drizzle with the dressing. Allow to stand 30 minutes before serving.

Salad of Sweet Potatoes, Fennel and Clementines

Serves 6 as a starter or side.

1 pound sweet potatoes (2 medium)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large bulb of fennel (about 8 ounces)
3 clementines (about 10 ounces)
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salad greens (optional)
½ red onion, thinly sliced
toasted almonds (optional)

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into ¾-inch cubes. Cook in boiling salted water until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain, refresh in cold water and drain again. Place the sweet potatoes in a bowl and add the wine vinegar, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Cover and allow the potatoes to marinate at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

Trim the fennel of stalks, saving sprigs of the green fronds for garnish. Quarter the bulb, then thinly slice crosswise. Add to the sweet potatoes.

Remove skin and white pith from the clementines. Chop them and add to the sweet potatoes.

In a small bowl combine the shallots, mustard, honey, Sherry vinegar and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir in the oil until dressing is smooth. Gently stir the dressing into the sweet potatoes. (Salad can be dressed up to 2 hours before serving.)

Place salad greens on plates. Scoop salad on greens. Scatter sliced onions and hazelnuts, if using, over the sweet potatoes. Garnish with sprigs of fennel greens.


1 comment:

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