May 6, 2010

salad with mixed greens grapefruit, avocado and pistachios

warmer weather has me thinking of cool, light, refreshing salads.

grapefruit has just been fantastic this season, so sweet and luscious. especially the late season grapefruit, still excellent in the stores right now. this salad comes together with an irresistible, sweet, tart and savory tang and a delicate but significant crunch.

i love this salad. grapefruit avocado salad is a california classic and makes the most of great local ingredients in season. in the 1940s and 50s my father-in-law ate a grapefruit avocado salad as part of the christmas day menu at his childhood home in brentwood, california. his mother, ona weed, my husband's grandmother, was great friends with edith head! a famously fantastic hollywood costume designer. i never met ona, as she died before i joined the family, but i've always been fascinated by her, for more than just her salads.

in present-day california, you will find, at the slanted door, (a brilliantly popular vietnamese restaurant now located in the ferry terminal), a terrific grapefruit and jicama salad with candied pecans that is quite memorable. you can munch on it's crunchy goodness while looking out at the windy, vibrant, sparkling san francisco bay, and thinking about the wonderful mix of textures and flavors, salty, sweet, spicy. mmm. somewhere between these two venerable salads lies the inspiration for this one. i like it so much i could eat it every day during grapefruit season.

salad of mixed greens grapefruit, avocado and pistachios
serves 6
16oz mixed greens
1/2 cup finely shredded purple cabbage
1, avocado, halved, peeled and sliced
2 large or 3 small grapefruits, a mix of varieties, white, pink and red is best, peeled and sectioned to remove membrane and pith
(you may have a few extra grapefruit sections, so snacking on the irresistibly juicy grapefruit
while making the salad is strongly encouraged, a nice little reward for the chef)
1/4 cup chopped toasted unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, stems removed

combine salad greens and vegetables in a large bowl or on a platter. arrange cabbage, avocado, grapefruit sections. sprinkle with cilantro leaves and chopped pistachios.

for the dressing
1/4 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (i squeeze what i need from the remainder of the grapefruit after sectioning)
1 T minced cilantro stems
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced shallot
1/4 cup ponzu or champagne vinegar (something very light and slightly fruity)
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp agave nectar or light brown sugar
mix thoroughly, allow flavors to blend for 10 minutes before serving, the flavors really blossom quickly but it does take several minutes.

lightly pour the dressing all over the salad, toss, and serve.

my family stopped speaking when i served this to them. 5 minutes of very mindful munching later, they peppered me with compliments. then they ate their broiled fish with nuoc chum and steamed jasmine rice very happily reminiscing about the salad.