The holidays are over. It is raining listlessly. Through the window in my office I can see the looming black shape of the evergreen in the yard, the grey stick mass of the leafless maple tree and the leaden cocoon of the winter sky. In the living room, the Christmas tree is strung with a series of dusty, white, spider webs connecting the Santa Claus at the top to the light on the ceiling. Tree limbs droop with the weight of the ornaments and there are more and more needles on the carpet. (I’m taking the tree down tomorrow, I swear!) Outside, it is not particularly cold and certainly not warm, but it is soggy. Thick new moss grows on everything, greenly blanketing paths and the steps – even tree branches. What an excellent time of year to play around in the kitchen!
It was about this time last year that I wrote about grapefruit in salad. The winter weather must drive me to anything at all reminiscent of sunlight. Anyway, I made this salad over the holidays again and again and sent the recipe around to anyone who asked for it. (It’s a reworked and vastly improved version of the failed salad) I must have eaten it twenty times in the last month and I’m still not sick of it!
The candied walnuts were very last minute. There were none left at the grocery store (probably because I started a run on them!) so I had to find a recipe. I made the walnuts for the first time this Christmas Eve. Crisp, spicy and so one-more-handful-ish, I made a batch minutes before leaving for my aunt’s house: a sweet little extra Christmas gift. How perfectly handy – to have a recipe like that.
for 4-6 people
- 2 bunches of watercress
- a wedge of blue Castello or Cambozola, cold – to make cutting easier
- a handful of candied walnuts (see recipe below)
- 2 pink grapefruits or 3-4 blood oranges
- 1 tbsp currants
- 1 shallot – thinly sliced into rings
- 2 tbsp Champagne vinegar
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Combine 1 tbsp hot water and red vinegar in a very small bowl with 1 tbsp currants.
- In another very small bowl, toss champagne vinegar with the sliced shallot.
- Wash and dry the leaves of watercress and mound on a large platter.
- Cut the Blue Castello into small pieces, removing any rind, and strew over leaves.
- With a very sharp knife cut the top and bottom off the grapefruit. Cut off all the rind and pith. Over a medium sized bowl, carefully slice between the membranes to remove the fruit in sections, catching any juice and the fruit in the bowl.
- Arrange the sectioned grapefruit over the salad.
- Toss the walnuts over the top.
- Lift the shallots out of the vinegar carefully, reserving the vinegar for the dressing. Pulling the rings apart, scatter the shallots over the salad.
- Drain the currants, and toss over the salad.
- Add 1-2 tbsp grapefruit juice to the small bowl with the champagne vinegar. Whisk in olive oil, 1/2 tsp sea salt, and a few grindings black pepper. Dress the salad – you may not need all the dressing.
- 1 cup large walnut pieces (mostly halves)
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher sea salt
- several grindings of pepper
- an optional pinch of cayenne (I liked it; my kids, not so much)
- Preheat the oven to 325.
- Toss all ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.
- Lightly spray a rimmed cookie sheet with vegetable oil.
- Spread the coated nuts over the cookie sheet.
- Toast for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool stirring every few minutes so they don’t stick too badly to the pan.