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Counter Intelligence: Citrus salad is a social event at Mom's

By April Hamilton
April Hamilton
Florida citrus is abundant in the produce department this time of year.
April Hamilton Citrus salad serves as palate cleanser after the richness of the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When summer turns to fall, I start dreaming about turkey day. Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday and my favorite meal of the year.

I'm sorry to report, though, that I'm not going to help you here with your thawing, brining, roasting or frying. There are countless experts on this subject, and renovating the turkey recipe is not my personal goal.

Nearly every Thanksgiving of my life, I have had the luxury of enjoying my Mom's bacon-rubbed, high-heat roasted turkey. Mom's Thanksgiving. Mostly her way, and it's so perfect it needs no updating. So don't even try. Mom would not approve. She does more than her share -- won't really delegate, but you can offer, 'I'll make the pies,' and she'll accept, adding, 'The crust has already been rolled out' and 'I'll peel the apples.'

There are lots of other tasks, but she has done them already, systematically throughout the week. The squash, the butter horn rolls, the stuffing. Check, check, check.

Citrus salad. I'll do the citrus salad. It is one of the highlights of this annual, big, family celebration. We have a pretty huge family, and Mom keeps adding to the list. "'So and so' is going to be alone, so he is coming over." This happens every year. A parade of interesting guests have joined us. Try keeping your teenage girls focused when a surfer from Puerto Rico is at the Thanksgiving table. Cue the giggling. Cue the citrus salad.

Over the river, through the mountains, to the coast, head south. Stop right there in the middle of Florida. At the beach, where the sweet citrus drops from the trees like the leaves in the fall.

The making of the citrus salad is a social event. There is the gathering of lots of fresh fallen oranges and grapefruit, then the careful carving off of the peels. Cut out the whole sections of juicy fruit, between the tough membranes, let the perfect segments drop into the bowl. Repeat. For a huge crowd, this process can take a while. But that's OK because while you're busy carving and sectioning, there is visiting. And you can do it a few days ahead.

Everyone loves the citrus salad. It is the palate cleanser, the digestif, that follows the richness of the holiday spread. It is an imperative part of the menu. You don't have to travel to Florida to enjoy this succulent treat. Thankfully, this time of year, Florida citrus is abundant in the produce department. You can make this, and I hope you will. If you happen to be in Florida, chances are Mom will set a place for you at the table.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Florida Citrus Salad

This delightful combination of fresh citrus is truly best made with Florida red grapefruit, which are much tangier than other varieties. The sweetness of the orange balances very nicely with the tangy grapefruit. You can add halved red grapes for an extra burst of color. Makes 12 servings.

6 fresh red grapefruit, rinsed and dried

6 fresh navel oranges, rinsed and dried

TRIM the tops and bottoms off the grapefruit and oranges, using a very sharp knife.

SET the fruits on end on a cutting board. Carefully cut the peel from the flesh -- start at the top and follow the curve down. Rotate each fruit as you go, removing all of the peel with a bit of fruit clinging to it.

CUT out each section of the fruit by inserting the blade of the knife between the flesh and the membranes on both sides (see note). This technique is called supreming. As you cut, put all the fruit sections into a large bowl.

SQUEEZE, by hand, the juice out of all the fruit membranes and peels.

COMBINE the fruit sections and their juice in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

SERVE in small dishes.

Note: It is best to carefully cut the fruit over a bowl that will catch all the juice. If you prefer to safely cut on a cutting board, place the cutting board inside a shallow pan that will catch the juice, and periodically transfer the juice to the bowl.

April Hamilton has always said, "Cooking is fun!" She shares her easy, practical recipes for delicious food through her cooking classes for kids and families. April's husband and three daughters help with testing and tasting in their Charleston kitchen. April would love to hear from you: Email aprilskitchencounter@gmail.com.


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