It is high season for citrus crops. During our recent visit to the San Francisco area, we saw many citrus trees planted in front yards as ornamentals that were drooped to the ground with big crops of oranges, lemons, limes, and tangerines. Driving through the Central Valley we saw miles of citrus groves with ripening fruit. In spite of cold weather, I believe that most of the farmers were able to avoid serious frost damage. In our local grocery store, the bins are full of oranges and tangerines, and the prices are good. No better time for a fresh citrus salad.
Of course, there are other places beside California with big crops of citrus fruits, so there is no point in restricting your sources. Florida and Arizona are producers in this country while Spain, Israel, and other Mediterranean countries also have famous crops.
Ruby red grapefruit from Texas are sweet and juicy. Pomelos can substitute for grapefruits, and there may be other choices you might wish to try.
Avocados don’t count as citrus, but they just seem to be a perfect match for fresh oranges and grapefruit, so consider including them in your salad.
Poppy seed dressing, a sweet vinaigrette, seems to have been invented by the well-known Texas cook and cookbook writer, Helen Corbitt. She was wooed away from academic nutrition science and Cornell University to take charge of a series of fancy dining establishments in Texas, ending at the Neiman-Marcus dining rooms in Texas. In the 1950’s, her food was famous throughout Texas, and nearly every housewife had a copy of her cookbook reserved for parties and special events. It was the era of Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens, so Corbitt’s recipes provided something unique and decidedly “Texas”.
Perhaps Helen Corbitt’s most famous recipe was for poppy seed dressing. For many years, especially in Texas, it was extremely popular. Like so many foods of the ’50s, though, it fell out of favor. That’s too bad because it is the perfect foil for fruits salads, especially of the citrus variety. As with so many foods out of favor, it is hard to find a current recipe, so here is one adapted from the original in the 1957 classic, “Helen Corbitt’s Cookbook” (Houghton Mifflin, Cambridge, MA, p.47).
Poppy Seed Dressing (about 1½ cups)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
- 1½ teaspoons white onion pulp
- 1 cup salad oil (your choice: vegetable, canola, walnut, other but NOT olive oil)
- 1½ tablespoons poppy seeds
- Place the sugar, mustard, salt, and vinegar in the jar of a blender
- Prepare the onion pulp by grating a white onion with a micro-plane. Add to the other ingredients
- Cover the blender jar, turn on the blender, and pour in the oil slowly to blend
- Blend in the poppy seeds, transfer to a storage container, and refrigerate until ready for use
Citrus Salad (serves two)
- 1 grapefruit
- 2 large navel oranges
- 1 ripe avocado
- spring mix salad greens
- poppy seed dressing
- With a very sharp knife, remove the skin and any white membrane from the grapefruit and oranges
- Cut between the sections of the citrus to make membrane-free pieces of fruit
- Halve and slice the avocado
- Arrange the grapefruit, orange, and avocado slices on a mound of salad greens
- Dress with the poppy seed dressing and serve immediately