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Sunshine in Winter

Sunshine in winterMy excitement about a real life lemon tree rivaled that of a child’s in a candy store. The branches hung deep and heavy on the tree outside my parent’s new condo in southern California. For the five days we were there, I plucked enough lemons to make my mouth pucker for the rest of the year. When I had my fill of lemons, I wandered around to the other side of the house to gather grapefruit. Simply sliced down the middle, breakfast was ready.

While I don’t have the luxury of wandering out into the sunshine with the vivid green grass tickling my bare toes as I fill my arms with fresh citrus, I can fill my grocery cart with the vibrant and healthful fruit. Each refreshing bite is a welcome respite from the gray and cold of these months, and as an added bonus, their health benefits help to wage war against the rampant sickness that is inevitable these days.

I’m particularly fond of Cara Cara oranges as of late. Their pinkish orange flesh is reminiscent of grapefruit, but their taste is sweeter and softly tropical. Perhaps the sun can be tasted more clearly in a Cara Cara because it is believed that somehow the Washington navel crossed with the Brazillian Bahia navel. Subtle tastes of cherry, rose petal and cranberry is enough to brighten a dreary day and make a salad of avocado and feta quite special.

Ruffly and crisp greens, whatever you have on hand, mix with a dressing made of avocado, a bit of olive oil, lime juice and water. There’s some salt and a bit of chile flake too. More avocado—this time cut into rough chunks—and segments of Cara Cara orange and salty feta are all tossed in. I happened to have some toasted sesame seeds that I added for a bit of crunch and depth. Cilantro, too, adds a nice fragrant flavor, but I forgot to add it the first time I made this salad and was still very pleased. Roasted chicken or seared steak makes it a hearty meal; otherwise, it makes for a lovely lunch that tastes of the sun.

by Ashley Rodriguez
food blogger


Serves 4

For the Salad:
2 Cara Cara oranges, peeled and segmented
1 head Romaine, washed and cut into thin ribbons
2 heads of endive (optional), cut into thin ribbons
1 ripe avocado
1 cup crumbled Feta
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)

For the Dressing:
1 large, ripe Haas avocado
Zest and juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
Pinch chile flake

Combine the avocado, lime zest and juice and water in a blender or food processor. Process until completely smooth. Pour in the olive oil and pulse just to combine as you don’t want to bruise the olive oil or it will taste bitter.  Add a pinch of salt and chile flake. Taste and adjust seasoning. Combine the clean greens in a bowl and toss with enough dressing to coat. You will have leftover dressing.  I like to give the greens a pinch of salt too. Seems strange, but I assure you, even lettuce perks up with a bit of seasoning.

Add the orange segments, avocado, cilantro and feta. Finish with the sesame seeds, if using.
Serve immediately.
Well covered, extra dressing will keep in the fridge for a few days.