Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews
Lively to look at, lovely to eat!
So easy to make and so good to eat, this salad is ideal for this time of year in Michigan. While fresh, local asparagus and strawberry season is in sight for my friends down south, here in Ann Arbor we still have some snow on the ground! The calendar, I know, now says “spring,” but the local markets and the reality of day-to-day life remind me that this far north, we’re still sort of stuck with one foot in winter. Looking out the window I see gray remnants of snow piles, but my brain longs for the vibrant colors of the coming spring season. This salad is my tasty segue out of that situation.
The salad of avocado, orange, arugula, feta, sumac, and almonds is a super tasty study in contrasts that come together really nicely to make something special! The colors are bright and beautiful. On one plate, you get greens, oranges, reds, whites, and browns. The sweet-sour spriteliness of the citrus, the peppery brightness of the fresh arugula, the richness of the avocado, the crunchy low notes of the almonds, the creamy saltiness of the feta, and the sour liveliness of the sumac!
The hardest part of putting it together is probably the shopping. There’s a good amount of nice citrus at the markets this time of year, so start with that. If you live further south, arugula may already be coming in aplenty. Here, in Michigan, it’s only from greenhouses right now, but I’ll take it! For the peppers, you can certainly roast your own, but I’ve long loved the smoky richness of the Piquillo peppers from the Basque Country. (Better still, come over and pick up a jar or three of the Cristal peppers from the same region—it’s a different pepper with thinner skin, and even more intensely delicious!).
Once you have the ingredients, the rest of the assembly is easy. Just arrange the various items on the plate in whatever configuration you like. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt (the super delicate fleur de sel would be ideal), a light drizzle of vinegar (the vermouth vinegar would be great), and dress with some peppery olive oil (the Mahjoub olive oil from Tunisia would be terrific). Add a bit of the sumac—I’m a big fan of the Jordanian sumac we have from the women at Kamā—and if you like a little spice, sprinkle on some Marash red pepper from Turkey. Take a couple deep breaths, appreciating the colors and aromas, then eat and enjoy.