grapefruitAnd I’m back. Yay! Sorry for the radio silence, campers. The demands of not feeling so hot and the excitement of celebrating the holidays Johnson-style with Mr. T, the Wonder Twins, and other assorted relatives of delight have kept me away. But no longer! It’s a new year, a new decade, and time for a salad, yes? Yes, indeed. It’s also peak time for most citrus, and in the spirit of freshness, I present my very favorite fennel and grapefruit salad with a super-awesome grapefruit vinaigrette.

While the salad is definitely a lush and delicious company-worthy combo of crunchy-sweet fennel, bitter greens, bright grapefruit, meaty pecans and tangy goat cheese, I am most pleased with the vinaigrette. Tonic, a former neighborhood haunt of ours, had the most lovely, intensely lemony salad dressing. It was just… lemony; it didn’t have any bitter pithiness to it, nor was it harshly acidic, and I still don’t know quite how they did it.

This vinaigrette recreates the dressing at Tonic’s deeply citrusy spirit, I think, with panache. The secret is to use very reduced fresh grapefruit juice–almost a grapefruit demiglace–to impart an intensely grapefruity flavor without any of the bitter or harsh notes. Reducing it in the microwave keeps it fresh tasting as the sugars don’t really caramelize like they would (hat tip to the inimitable Rose for this idea, natch). While it does take a bit longer than a pantry shelf vinaigrette, it’s so tasty that I’m sure you’ll find the extra time worth it. And, if you’re not entertaining a crowd, it’s lovely to have on hand in the fridge.

Fennel Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette

6 grapefruit
3 bulbs fennel
12 oz mixed greens
6 oz pecans
6 oz chevre
Grapefruit Vinaigrette (below)
1 tsp sea salt

Cut the tops and bottoms from the grapefruits with a serrated knife, and following the curve of the fruit cut the remaining peels off. Squeeze any juice from the tops and bottoms into a medium bowl. Using the same knife and holding the grapefruit over your bowl, section the grapefruit. (These cleaned sections are called “supremes” as are boneless, skinless chicken breasts… perhaps because they’re both kind of fussy and a p-in-the-a to do?) Continue working over the juice bowl and place the supremes into a separate bowl.

Once all the grapefruit have been sectioned, drain any standing juice from the fruit bowl into the juice bowl, and strain the juice into a heat proof 4 cup glass measure. A few layers of cheesecloth will do fine, but so will a moistened paper towel if you’re careful. The juice will be used in the vinaigrette–hop on down and get that started…

And we’re back to salad. Excellent. Toast the pecans in a 300 degree F oven for 8-10 min, till they’re nicely fragrant. Set aside. Rinse and core the fennel bulbs, slicing them into thin 1″ batons. Set aside.

In a large bowl, place as much of the greens as will fit and toss with 1/2 c of the vinaigrette. Add the remaining greens and a little more of the vinaigrette and toss to coat with the sea salt. Portion the greens out between six plates and divide the fennel, grapefruit sections, and pecans accordingly. Break the chevre over the salads in chunks and drizzle over the remaining vinaigrette to taste.

Serves 6 generously

Grapefruit Vinaigrette

2 c reserved, strained grapefruit juice
2 tbs white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard (but of course…)
1 tbs minced shallot
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 c extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs fresh tarragon, dill, or mixture thereof

Put the glass measure with the grapefruit juice in the microwave and reduce to 1/3 c. This will take about 20 minutes. Three 5-min sessions will get you close, then start watching closely and zap for no more than a minute at a time.

In a 2 c glass measure, combine the reduced grapefruit juice, the vinegar, mustard, shallot, pepper, and salt. Using an immersion blender, pulse until completely smooth. Add the olive oil and blend till emulsified. Add in the fresh herbs and pulse briefly just to combine.