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Healthy Eating: Citrus Salads

Martha Stewart Living, December 2002

On a sluggish winter day, tart-sweet citrus is a wonderful pick-me-up, filled with important vitamins and minerals -- and fresh palate-pleasing bursts of flavor.

This time of year, the fruits are coming into their own, making it easy to find them fresh, juicy, and inexpensive. Matched with salads, citrus adds a bit of zip and color; drizzled with oil and sprinkled with cheese or nuts, its tanginess is intense but not overwhelming.

Nutrient Rich
Citrus fruits are well known for being high in vitamin C, which studies have shown makes skin and gums healthy, strengthens bones and blood vessels, and may even raise immunity levels. Potassium -- which is good for the heart -- is also present in most citrus. Whether eaten by themselves or tossed in a salad, kumquats, grapefruits, and oranges provide a healthy dose of vitamin A, said to make eyes sparkle -- or at least likely to help your vision. These Asian natives provide a substantial amount of fiber as well, which may lower the risk of colon cancer and heart disease.

Easy to Complement
These aromatic fruits deserve to be more than just breakfast fuel. While all citrus contain acids, each variety has a different amount, giving it a distinct flavor that pairs well with specific types of foods: Grapefruit, with its vibrant taste and low acidity, can be balanced by creamy, pungent cheeses. Honey tangerines are sweet, and kumquats are bitter and a bit sour; they play off each other nicely. Oranges are sweet and tangy, so they usually just need a splash of olive oil and a sharp counterpoint, such as briny olives. Blood oranges are mellow with a hint of tartness; they mix well with assertive ingredients. Cheese and toasted nuts are excellent with most citrus, grounding the zesty flavor with their earthy, rich, good-for-you oils. Serve our salads as part of lunch or dinner; or, in the case of our tangerine-kumquat mixture, as a sophisticated final course.

At the grocery store, look for firm fruits that are slightly heavy with tight, unblemished skin; they should also have a fresh, pronounced fragrance. But don't worry about choosing the right one; when citrus is in season, perfect specimens are abundant. The only difficult decision? Which tantalizing salad to make first.

Honey Tangerines and Kumquats with Walnuts and Shaved Celery
Oranges with Olives, Parsley, and Paprika
Thinly Sliced Beets with Blood Oranges and Watercress
Mixed Lettuces with Grapefruit, Goat Cheese, and Black Pepper