Let me start by saying that I am completely smitten with the city in which Brian and I live. Charlottesville wooed us from afar with her top-notch university, her small-town feel just two hours from Washington D.C., her close proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains and dozens of Virginia wineries. We were drawn in by the qualities of a city that look good on paper: the quaint downtown district, public parks, academic culture, good hospitals. What we received in addition to those important qualities was greater than we could have ever imagined: a strong local food movement, an impressive number of independently-owned restaurants that have kept us out of Chili's, Friday's and the like for the last five years, a health-concious population that promotes dozens of foot races year-round, like-minded classmates, co-workers and farmers who have become incredible friends. And, especially exciting for two Floridians who lived without them for the first 22 years of our lives, four distinct seasons.
Nobody could have prepared me for the magic that is October in Charlottesville, the golden light that flares through the brightly-colored leaves and the festivals that occur every weekend. And then there's April, with her daffodils and tulips and cherry trees that resemble cotton candy attached to smooth, silvery bark. Late June brings the first of the summer vegetables to the farmer's market and the intoxicating, oh-so-sweet scent of wild multiflora rose to the air. For eleven months of the year I sing the praises of this place, this gem of a city nestled into the shadow of the Blue Ridge, and am pleased to call Charlottesville my home.
But there are those other four weeks, the weeks that span the end of January and beginning of February, when the first snow of the year has melted and left the yard a muddy mess, when the cuteness of the six sweaters in my closet has worn off and I stare longingly at the bright, sleeveless tops meant for warmer months. These are the days that I resent pulling socks on instead of strappy sandals, when I crave a glass of white wine while sitting in a sunbeam on the back deck, when I'd give anything to not have skin flaking from my too-dry face. These are the days that I wish I were still a Floridian, with 70* winter days and a year-round farmer's market.
These are the days when citrus plays a prominent role in my diet, producing little sparks of Florida warmth with each juicy bite. Citrus fruit will get me through the worst days of winter, when the sky is gray and the air is moist and my boots make suction noises as I walk across my saturated front yard. There will be lemon cakes and orange juice-glazed tofu, citrus-flavored martinis and key lime pies. Clementines are tossed in my bag daily to be eaten as an afternoon snack, the draft leaking through my office window hardly noticeable as I savor each sunshine-filled wedge.
Also, there is this salad. So light, so fresh, so summer, yet made with mostly seasonal ingredients. It is a bright spot on the dreariest of winter days, sure to bring cheer and warmth to the coldest of winter nights.
The fennel provides a delightful crunch, similar to a slaw, that serves as a nice contrast to the soft oranges and the salmon that nearly melts in your mouth. Poaching the fish creates a mild flavor that is enhanced by the juice from the oranges and a hint of mint.
Salmon Salad with Fennel, Orange and Mint
from bon appetit, january 2010
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 whole star anise
- 4 cups cold water
- (1) 1-pound salmon fillet with skin
- 2 navel oranges (I think 3 would be better...)
- 4 cups very thinly sliced fennel (from 2 medium bulbs)
- 1 cup small fresh mint leaves (I only used 1/4 cup, and it was plenty for us...)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6 cups of arugula salad mix
- In a large, deep skillet, combine water, sugar, vinegar and star anise. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add salmon filet, skin side up, to skillet. Cover skillet and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, turn salmon over. Cover and let stand until salmon is just opaque in center, 5 to 6 minutes longer.
- Remove salmon from liquid and cool. Coarsely flake salmon into bowl, removing any bones and skin, and set aside.
- Cut top and bottom 1/4-inch off each orange. Stand 1 orange on 1 flat end. Using small sharp knife, cut off peel and white pith. Working over large bowl, cut between membranes, releasing segments into bowl. Repeat with remaining orange.
- Add salmon, fennel, mint and olive oil to bowl with oranges. Gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over bed of arugula.
Speaking of Florida, my good friend Jenn has started a new blog about fitness and running. She's a doll, so energetic and positive, and is sure to bring an infectious spark to the healthy living blog world. Check her out at Reason 2 Run, and take note of the helpful fitness facts that accompany each post. She's a fitness professional, runner and balanced living enthusiast, and has a wealth of knowledge to share with us all. Welcome, Jenn!