Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oh My Darlin’ Clementine Salad

Clementine Spinach Salad

Tomorrow we head out of town, driving to, and then all around, New York State.  First to see Ben’s family in Syracuse, for a late Christmas celebration.  Then off to the Catskills, where I’ll drop off my mountain-man husband for a few days of hiking.  While Ben’s adding to his collection of winter-time summits, I’ll be bumming around the Hudson Valley, staying with friends, popping into some favorite restaurants, and visiting my old stomping grounds. Then it’s off to Binghamton together for a few nights of delicious revelry with Ralph & Bill, before we make the trek back home again.  It’s sure to be a whirl wind tour, as it is every year.  I can’t wait!

Salad Fixin's

Like happens before any trip, I’ve been trying to use up everything in the fridge, over the last few days.  This afternoon, hungry for a quick lunch, and knowing it was my last chance to rescue a particularly pristine bunch of baby spinach from a wilting, neglectful death, I salvaged it from the back corner of the fridge and dropped it into a big salad bowl.  I found half a dozen cherry-like radishes in the vegetable drawer, so gave them a rinse, sliced them thin, and tossed them in too.  Pushing aside the butter and a big block of Parmesan, I was delighted to discover a small bit of left-over goat cheese hiding in the dairy drawer, from where or when exactly, I have no clue.  No matter, it was still perfectly fine.  What a find!  I crumbled it into small, fluffy dollops, and into the bowl they went.  From the cupboards, a few handfuls of pecans, and a generous scoop of chewy raisins.  An extra round of searching through the fridge yielded half a red onion, wrapped up tight in plastic.  A few thin, pink slices of this too, were tossed into the salad bowl.  On top I drizzled the last few drops of the poppy seed vinaigrette we had left-over from a dinnertime salad a few nights ago.  A quick toss with a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and I was ready to sit down and dig in!

Salad Bowl

But then I suddenly spied the big bowl of Clementines on the kitchen countertop, waiting to be packed up tomorrow as a car-ride treat.  Not content to wait patiently, they were just begging to be included today.  And I couldn’t resist them either.  It was a big bowl, after all.  A couple or three wouldn’t be missed on the trip.  So quick as a wink, I popped the Clementines out of their easy-peeling skins, and scattered their half-moon segments into my giant salad of growing goodness. 

And wow, what a final touch those Clementines turned out to be.  Bright, juicy bursts of fresh orange flavor.  Just the thing to really round out this mix-and-match lunch.  And who would have thought that all those last and lost tidbits just floating around could come together into such a fantastic salad!  A perfect salad, really.  With a touch or two of sweetness , a nice hint of tartness, and rounded out by subtle doses of spice and earthiness.  And the textures too, were as well-rounded as the flavors.  Crunchy here, creamy there, crisp and juicy and tender and chewy – all of these in every bite.  I was so delighted with the surprising end results, I just had to share it with you.  And who knows, maybe you all have most of these ingredients just hanging around your kitchen too!  

Oh My Darlin’ Clementine Salad
Serves 4
Spinach Salad with Clementines, Radishes, Pecans, Onions, Raisins, Goat Cheese & Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
For the vinaigrette:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
1/4 cup vegetable oil
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the rest of the salad:
about 5 to 6 oz baby spinach
4 Clementines, peeled, segments separated
about 8 to 10 radishes, thinly sliced
about 1/2 cup pecan halves
about 1/4 cup raisins
about 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
about 2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To make the vinaigrette:
In a small mixing bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Whisk together, and slowly pour in the olive oil, then the vegetable oil, both in a thin stream and whisking as you pour.  The dressing can be made ahead and stored about five days, refrigerated in an airtight container. 
To assemble the salad:
Place the spinach, Clementine segments, sliced radishes, pecans, raisins and sliced red onion in a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle the vinaigrette over the top, enough to evenly coat the spinach and other fixin’s.  (You definitely won’t need to use it all.  Save what’s left, then you’ll have vinaigrette already on hand next time a salad strikes your fancy.)  Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Add small dollops of goat cheese, tucked in here and there among the spinach leaves.  Serve immediately.