Thursday, February 5, 2009

Veggie Might: Kismet Salad (Grapefruit and Avocado Salad)

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a regular Thursday feature about all things Vegetarian.

Tuesday is my favorite day of the week. It’s an ordinary day, when nothing special happens, but it’s bursting with the potential to be extraordinary. And something amazing happened Tuesday night.

I was so tired when I got home from work. I only wanted to fall down on my bed with my cute monkey dog and go to sleep. But I was also hungry and there was “nothing” in the fridge. I flopped on the couch and picked up the new New York Magazine from the coffee table.

After I cried for the hundredth time about the Greatest American Hero, Sully, and his pilot/hero cohort, I turned the page, and there, under a stunning photo of a juicy, pink grapefruit, was the perfect recipe. It was exactly the kind of thing I’ve been craving; and I had all the ingredients in my kitchen.

I. Kid. You. Not. Who looks in a magazine and goes, oh that looks good. I’ll make that right now? No one! Except maybe Martha Stewart after looking at her own magazine.

But this time it happened to me. Angels and editors sent me Amanda Cohen’s Grapefruit Salad on a regular ol’ ho-hum Tuesday. It was kismet (or Brigadoon). It was Tuesday. My energy was restored.

Giving the recipe another quick scan, I decided it was a tad fussier than necessary for my taste or time constraint. It calls for the grapefruit to be candied and served as lollipops, a treatment that had me scratching my head.

Grapefruit, especially when in season (like right now!), is perfect. Why go dipping it in sugar? In the article, Ms. Cohen, controversial owner-chef of the new East Village vegetarian joint Dirt Candy quips, “Who doesn’t like candy in a salad?”

Well, me for one. I decided to leave the grapefruit sections au natural. She also tops the salad with “grilled cheese croutons,” which sound amazing, but, like the grapefruit lollies, a bit like gilding the lily.

I made two other substitutions. Instead of salad greens, I went with spinach because, well, that’s what I had. Verdict: spinach works great. Delicious. No complaints. Go vitamins A & K!

When I got to the dressing, I was out of shallots so I subbed minced leek and a pinch of garlic. Magnifique! Seriously. That dressing is outstanding. The recipe makes a cup, and you will be so glad to have mucho leftover.

Okay, this is starting to sound a bit less like kismet than creating my own reality, but I’m okay with that; this is the best Dame Judy Dench salad I’ve ever put in my mouth that doesn’t have blue cheese and pecans on it. Helen Mirren, if I voted today, it just might win over blue cheese and pecans.

All this effusion and I haven’t even mentioned how it all combines with the toasted almonds and avocado. Well, great Maggie Smith in the morning, it does so beautifully. The tangy grapefruit plays off the mild avocado, and the crunchy almonds give it a snap.

This healthy, joyful winter salad is as light and fragrant as spring and perfect for a Tuesday.

Grapefruit and Avocado Kismet Salad
Inspired by Amanda Cohen’s Grapefruit Salad
Serves 4

2/3 large grapefruit (about 8 sections)
1/2 avocado, cubed
3 tbsp sliced almonds
4 cups fresh spinach
4 tsp dressing (see below)

3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grapefruit juice (about 3-4 sections)
2 tbsp lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
2 tbsp grapefruit zest
1 tbsp minced leek
1/2 clove minced garlic
1 tsp ground mustard
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 350°.

2) Peel grapefruit and set aside rind. Remove pith and membrane from 8 sections. If you know how to supreme citrus, go for it. I just do it by hand. Place the good stuff in a small bowl and set in the fridge to chill.

3) Juice the remaining 3-4 segments and strain 1/4 c. grapefruit juice into your blender or food processor.

4) Add lemon juice, minced leek, garlic, and spices to blender.

5) Grab that grapefruit rind you set aside. Zest the grapefruit rind using the fine side of your box grater (or whatever zest tool you have). Add to blender.

Real quick...
6) Place sliced almonds on baking sheet and toast for five minutes.

While the almonds are toasting...
7) Give the juices and spices a couple of zaps in the blender. Then slowly drizzle in oil and blend until it emulsifies.

8) Remove almonds from the oven and allow to cool.

9) Wash and chop or tear spinach as desired. I chop mine in a wide chiffonade.

10) Peel and chop avocado.

To assemble salad
11) Toss spinach with 4 tsp of dressing. (The dressing really goes a long way.) Add avocadoes and grapefruit. Give it another toss. Sprinkle with sliced almonds when you’re ready to serve. Eat, ooh, and aah.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
128 calories, 9.2g fat, $.89

1 large grapefruit: 97 calories, 0g fat, $.93
1/2 avocado: 161 calories, 15g fat, $.99
3 tbsp sliced almonds: 100.8 calories, 8.4g fat, $.49
4 cups fresh spinach: 28 calories, 0g fat, $.99
4 tsp dressing: 125 calories, 13.5g fat, $.16
Totals: 511.8 calories, 36.9g fat, $3.56
Per Serving: 128 calories, 9.2g fat, $.89


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