For my first three years of school I attended an all-girls school in Baltimore. While I have many memories such as May day and the great tire swing I loved to play on during recess, there is one memory that is so ingrained in my mind that I keep coming back to it every time I smell an orange. Every year the school held a fund raiser selling citrus fruit (grapefruits and oranges). When the fruit would arrive directly from Florida it would make the entire building smell like a citrus grove. Imagine the worst smell you have ever smelled, then imagine the polar opposite of it, and that is what it smelled like. Ambrosia comes to mind to describe it. And like most scent memories, this memory is now triggered every time I smell fresh citrus. It is, I’m sure, the reason that I begin to crave citrus fruit the moment I see the first of the Clementines hit the shelves in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. I’m sure my cravings have something to do with the seasonality of food, and I crave it because it’s been a year since it was in season and all of that stuff. However, I think it’s the smell of it that I crave even more than the flavor. I want so badly to return to that hallway, lined with white boxes of orange and yellow–heavenly scent bombs from floor to ceiling. But I can’t go back, so I now greedily grab up countless numbers of oranges and grapefruits this time of year so I can fill my kitchen and tummy with all that citrus. I bring home fruit after fruit to zest, section, juice or just peel and eat. I love the way the smell sinks into my fingers and hands. It’s just so good.
Of course, citrus isn’t the only thing in season this time of year. I’ll take oranges and grapefruit almost anyway I can get them. Beets and fennel, when added to my beloved citrus create a wonderful winter salad that has all the juiciness of summer fruit with a decidedly winter feel to it. Every flavor of this salad works together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. The licorice flavor of the fennel is balanced with the sweet, sour, and bitter from the fruit. The sweetness of the beets is amplified by the honey. The creamy Gorgonzola is paired with the crunch from the walnuts, and the slightly sweet mustard vinaigrette is full with black-pepper bite. It’s a salad that will wow guests when you serve it at your holiday dinner, but also something easy enough to want to make it again just for yourself. Enjoy