This salad is the perfect way to brighten up the cold, dull days of winter, particularly this year when a good portion of the country has been covered in a deep blanket of snow. The bright, warm colors come from a mixture of Cara Cara and blood oranges, which happen to be in season right now. While you can use any kind of orange for this salad, Cara Caras and blood oranges add a pretty and unexpected burst of color. Cara Caras were first cultivated at Hacienda Cara Cara, hence the name, in Venezuela in 1976. They are a cross-breed between Washington navel oranges and Brazilian Bahia navel oranges. Their rosy colored flesh, similar to a grapefruit, is a result of the antioxidant lycopene. Some studies have shown that diets rich in lycopene may lower the risk of cancer. The ruby flesh found in blood oranges comes from anthocyanin, another powerful antioxidant. Interestingly, the deep red color only appears if the fruit is exposed to cold weather during growth or after harvest. Both varieties are sweet, delicious and a great source of fiber and vitamin C.
The dressing on this salad is slightly sweet, with a nice crunch from the addition of poppy seeds and fresh pomegranate seeds. Poppy seeds have a somewhat notorious reputation, due in part to the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine tests false positive for opium use. She later learns that it is a result of eating her favorite poppy seed muffins. The ancient Greeks used the opium found in unripe poppy seeds for medicinal purposes. While opium is made from poppies, the poppy seeds found in baked goods and salad dressings are not dangerous. These seeds have reached full maturity and do not contain any narcotic properties. Even so, you might not want to eat this salad just before a drug test in order to avoid a false positive reading.
For my Jewish readers– Purim is not too far away, and poppy seeds are traditionally eaten during the holiday. Consider adding this delicious this seasonal salad to your holiday menu!
To learn how to easily seed a pomegranate, click here.
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Winter Citrus Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
- 5 oz baby spinach, washed and dried
- 5 oranges (I used a mix of cara cara and blood oranges)
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp honey or agave nectar (for vegan use agave)
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tsp poppy seeds
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp onion powder
To make dressing, combine ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until well combined.
Assemble the salad, spinach, oranges, sliced avocado and pomegranate seeds in a serving bowl or on individual plates. Drizzle with dressing and serve. If you prefer, you can also toss the spinach with the dressing just before serving, then top with remaining ingredients.