A light and tangy orange vinaigrette sweetened with honey and a touch of ginger. Whip it up quickly, and keep it in your fridge for whenever the salad mood hits. (Skip to recipe.)
Anyone else out there have a box of shriveled, hardening, mandarin oranges left hiding in your home from the Christmas season? What with all the feasting, and baking, and Picklebacking, those poor little old healthy fruits kinda get shoved into the background.
When I was a kid, mandarin oranges were a special treat only available at Christmas time. Those delicious orange balls of juicy sunshine, wrapped in their crinkly tissue and firmly packed into little rough wooden crates (I'm dating myself), carried with them the aura of the exotic places they came from. They were as sure a sign of Christmas as the Santas in the shopping malls and the candy canes in the department stores. As soon as the first boxes of mandarins were offered in the grocery stores, my mom would bring one home and we'd clamour to grab an orange, to peel it's soft leathery skin and pop those incredibly sweet and juicy little segments into our mouths.
With a family of seven, you can imagine how quickly a box could disappear and why the oranges had to be doled out like special treats. I remember the year we lived in our house in Aldergrove, BC. I was eight or nine years old. My dad rarely (as in - never) did the grocery shopping. But for some reason on this day, he came home with an armful of wooden mandarin crates. Each of us girls (there were only four of us at the time) got our own crate of oranges. A whole crate of oranges! All to ourselves! It was an unheard of occurrence. I kept that little wooden crate beside the head of my bed, and sneaked into it to nibble an orange whenever I felt like it! Oh the wonder and bounty.
And then afterwards, that crate was put to use as a doll house and a treasure-keeping chest.
Nowadays, mandarin oranges are such a common Christmas food, overshadowed by many more alluring treats, that they aren't as special any more. When our kids were young, I tried to recreate that magic of my own childhood experience by presenting each of them with their own box of mandarins one year. The boxes languished in their rooms. Our kids had access to the kitchen fruit bowl which was always stocked with a variety of fresh offerings, and mandarin oranges just weren't that exotic.
So now we sometimes have this:
Forlorn mandarins that shrivel and harden because they didn't get eaten, their bright orange colour intensifying. I can't bear to waste them, so I use the after-Christmas bounty in cooking. Last night I peeled and sliced a bunch and layered them over browned chicken thighs with a drizzle of honey and baked them in the oven. Mmmmmm. Today I made this simple and tangy orange vinaigrette.
The sweet orange juice, augmented with a splash of vinegar and drizzle of honey, is warmed up with a hit of ginger and black pepper. It's just the thing to help me eat more salads (which I'm definitely needing after all the feasting). Whipping up a homemade salad dressing is quick and easy. Why buy a preservative-laden bottle of commercial dressing when you can drizzle a little bit of winter sunshine on your greens instead?
I can still enjoy my Christmas oranges, even after the holiday is over.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: The oil and orange juice in the vinaigrette will separate into layers. Just shake vigourously right before using the dressing so the layers emulsify again.
Instead of mandarin oranges you can use tangerines, clementines, or even just regular navel oranges. (And your oranges don't even have to be old or shriveled!)
Mandarin Orange Vinaigrette
- ½ cup (120ml) freshly squeezed mandarin orange juice (or tangerine or clementine)
- ½ cup (120ml) mild-flavoured oil (like grapeseed or avocado oil)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
- 2 teaspoons grated shallot (or in a pinch, use 1 teaspoon onion powder)
Grate the shallot on a microplane grater or the smallest holes of a box grater, so that it becomes a juicy paste.
Combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake well. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before using, to allow the flavours to blend. Will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Vigorously shake or stir the dressing immediately before each use.
Makes 1¼ cups (300ml) of orange vinaigrette.
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