How fantastic is it that (at least in this hemisphere) the dreary winter months bring with them the clementine harvest? Can you imagine a more bright and cheerful fruit to contrast with the cold winter days? The best salads, anytime of the year, will feature a variety of contrasts through textures and flavors: soft, creamy, chewy, crunchy, sweet, salty, savory, bitter…The orchestration of these elements balances the dish and satisfies cravings.
This winter salad calls for the hearty and warming barley grain, though you could substitute any whole grain or even dried bean that you prefer. If you do go with barley, choose “hulled barley” as opposed to “pearled barley”. Unlike pearled, hulled barley still has its bran (fiber-rich, outer protective layer) intact so it’s less refined and higher in nutrients.
Instead of using clementine juice as is for the vinaigrette (though you could certainly do so if short on time), I’m going to explain a simple technique for reducing the juice into a jammy viscosity. This results in a richly flavored vinaigrette and a striking presentation for the salad. But first, the recipe for the salad…
Reduced Clementine Juice
Cut 4 clementines in half and squeeze their juice into a small saucepan. It’s okay for some pulp to fall in as well. Place the saucepan over medium heat until the juice comes to an energetic simmer. It will take a few minutes for the water to evaporate from the juice, but keep a close eye on the pan as it will go from perfect to scorched in no time at all. Stir occasionally to prevent hotspots in the saucepan from overcooking part of the reduction. The juice is perfect once it pulls together on a spoon like a thick cough syrup. Scrape out the reduction immediately as it thickens while it cools and it will stick to the pan if not removed.
Use of Reduction
The above amount of reduced juice will be used for the vinaigrette. If you’d like to have some reduction for enhancing the serving plates, double the juice in the above method (8 clementines) and decorate your plates immediately. You can also transfer half of the reduction to a squeeze bottle for later use if it’s not ideal to garnish the plates just yet.
Using a spoon or squeeze bottle, dot the reduction around the perimeter of a plate, leaving a clean space in the middle for the salad. Or, do the “restaurant swoosh”. Dot a large puddle of the reduction on one side of the plate, then drag the back of a spoon in an arc through the puddle.
Of course, the salad is eye appealing and delicious without any fancy touches. As I said above, you can make the vinaigrette with freshly squeezed clementine juice that hasn’t been reduced as well. Don’t let that step keep you from trying out such a nice dish.
Why not turn it into a meal of winter salads by adding the Kale and Parsnip Salad in Maple Sesame Dressing?
- About 1 cup (large handful) Hulled Barley, soaked in cool water overnight
- 2 Oranges
- 2 bulbs fresh Fennel, stalks intact
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper, as needed
- 1 block Feta, goat’s and/or sheep’s milk variety (check ingredients label)
- Handful Hazelnuts, toasted then coarsely chopped
- Reduced Clementine Vinaigrette:
- Juice of 4 clementines, reduced (instructions above)
- Juice from the leftover interiors and membranes of segmented Oranges (see above)
- Squeeze of Lemon Juice
- 1 Medjool Date, pitted
- 4 Tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Sea Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper, to taste
- Cook the barley: Drain the barley of its soaking water and rinse well under cool water. We’ll cook the barley like pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. You’ll want enough water to cover the barley by a few good inches…you can always top up with hot water during the cooking time (a kettle is great for this). Transfer the barley to the pot, add a large pinch of salt and continue boiling for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 40 minutes, taste a few grains of barley. They should be tender but not mush. If they put up too much resistance (you’re chewing on it more than seems right) continue boiling the barley and tasting after every 5-10 minutes until it’s tender. Once you’re there, drain the barley and set aside in a large bowl to cool slightly before assembling the salad.
- Prep the oranges: For the cleanest pieces, segment the oranges following this technique. Reserve the juice that falls out during the segmenting process for use in the vinaigrette. The interiors and membranes will hold a lot of juice, squeeze this out and reserve as well.
- Prep the fennel: Cut the stalks off the fennel, then cut the bottom of the fennel off, just slightly above the base of the bulb. If the outer sheaths of the fennel look ragged, remove these and discard. Lay the fennel bulb on its most stable side and cut into thin slices. If you have a mandolin slicer, this is the perfect time to put it to use to attain thin shavings of fennel. Otherwise, a sharp knife will work just fine. Before discarding the stalks, snip off then coarsely chop a few of the fennel fronds.
- To make the vinaigrette, combine the juices and date together in a blender. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the oil. Add a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Use immediately, or store in an enclosed container up to 5 days in the fridge.
- Assemble the salad: Mix together the barley, orange segments, sliced fennel, chopped fennel fronds and vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Crumble the feta cheese and toss into the salad. If the serving time isn’t far away, stir in the hazelnuts as well. Otherwise, leave them on the side to add just before serving so they don’t soften in the salad. This is best eaten within 2 days. Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge.
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