Citrus salad. (Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Photo: Ricardo DeAratanha/TNS
Photo: Ricardo DeAratanha/TNS

Culinary SOS: A vibrant palette for that citrus palate

With the weather warming and spring in full bloom, citrus season is coming to a close. Still, you might find some of the best fruit in the market stands now.

“As the season evolves and begins to end, the citrus is just sweeter and juicier,” says Mercedes Rojas, chef de cuisine at Lucques restaurant in Los Angeles. Every year, the restaurant features a citrus salad on the menu, pulling produce and inspiration from local farmers including Peter Schaner of Schaner Farms and Laura Ramirez of JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch. “This year, we were particularly in love with Laura’s Valentine pomelo,” says Rojas, and the salad is named in her honor.

The salad is a vibrant assortment of citrus, ranging from deep red blood and sweet navel oranges to white oro blanco grapefruit, tangelos, mandelos, pomelos and kumquats, each carefully cut into segments or pinwheels and arranged on a plate. Peppery arugula leaves and thick slices of Montealva cheese are tucked in with the citrus, the Spanish goat cheese lends creamy richness and a nice tang. Building on the Spanish influence, diced black olives and crushed Marcona almonds are sprinkled over the salad, which is finished with a quick citrus vinaigrette and a dusting of fleur de sel. Simple, and a perfect way to show off the best that the citrus season has to offer.

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LAURA’S WINTER CITRUS WITH MONTEALVA, ARUGULA, BLACK OLIVES AND MARCONAS

30 minutes. Serves 2.

CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

2 teaspoons minced shallots (from 1 medium to large shallot)

1/3 cup blood orange juice

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar, preferably Pedro Ximenes

1 teaspoon orange zest

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

In a nonreactive bowl, macerate the shallots in the blood orange juice for 5 minutes. Add the sherry, orange zest and slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and balance depending on how sweet your blood oranges are. This makes about 1/3 cup vinaigrette, which will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days.

SALAD AND ASSEMBLY

An assortment of citrus, including pomelos, blood oranges, tangelos, cara cara oranges, mandelos, oro blanco grapefruit and kumquats

6 slices Montealva or similar Spanish goat cheese

6 to 10 arugula leaves

2 tablespoons citrus vinaigrette

1 teaspoon diced black olives

2 teaspoons crushed Marcona almonds

Fleur de sel

1. Cut the citrus in segments or pinwheels. The restaurant prefers to cut the blood oranges and kumquats into pinwheels, and segments the rest. You’ll want 2 to 4 pieces of each citrus.

2. Divide the citrus between two salad plates, and tuck in the arugula leaves and cheese slices. Drizzle over the citrus vinaigrette. Sprinkle over the black olives, almonds and fleur de sel.

Note: Adapted from a recipe from Lucques restaurant in Los Angeles.

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