Roasted Citrus Salad with Marinated Feta and Black Pepper Vinaigrette / by Chelsea Zwieg

Let's be honest. January is the worst. There are no fun holidays to look forward to, it's back to school, back to work, back to checking the 10 day forecast and seeing 10 straight days of clouds. But these sullen winter months have one saving grace, one little spot of sunshine and that is citrus. Citrus all over the place. 

I have always loved citrus. But I've loved it in the weirdest ways possible. When I was younger I would eat lemons and limes whole, just like an orange. Lemons were my stand-by favorite food for a solid 10 years. And yet, in that decade of lemon eating bliss, and for years after, I have never bothered to do much else with the overflow of citrus that happens at this time of year. There are so many good flavors but I remain uninspired. 

That is, until I read January's Bon Appetit and saw their little tribute to roasted citrus. Roasted. Citrus. If you have learned nothing else about me from reading this blog, you know that I love to roast things. Bananasbrussels sprouts, apples, garlic, carrots, marshmallows. Chances are, if I take something and roast it, I will like it 10X more and then feel immediately compelled to share it with all of you. And lo and behold, citrus holds true to this roasting rule.

When citrus is thinly sliced and roasted for 10-15 minutes, the sugars caramelize, giving the fruit a deep, slightly sweeter flavor. Even the rinds become crispy and lose their bitterness. Which means, bonus (!), you don't have to do any fancy pants peeling and segmenting because nobody has enough time or enough fingers to lose for that. 

I created a simple salad around the citrus using arugula, avocado and marinated feta. Just like roasting citrus, marinating feta is a simple thing that adds a ton of flavor. The feta is covered in oil and spices for a few hours and comes out with unbeatable depth of flavor. And then, in the name of conservation, the left over oil from the feta is added to a black pepper vinaigrette that might just be my new favorite salad dressing. This salad is great served as a side (especially with some warm soup because January is January) but it can easily be turned into a main course by adding some shredded chicken, tuna or even some grains like bulgur or quinoa. It's a little spot of sunshine in a loser month. Ok, maybe a little real sunshine would be nice too. 

Roasted Citrus Salad with Marinated Feta and Black Pepper Vinaigrette 

Serves 4

Note: You can use any citrus that looks good for this salad. I used a blood orange, a meyer lemon and a tangelo but go with whatever looks best at your grocery store. Although I didn't test it out, Bon Appetit warns that grapefruit and limes remain too bitter, so be aware of that. 

| Ingredients

  • 3 pieces of citrus (see note), sliced 1/8" thick
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 8 oz. block feta cheese, diced
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. olive oil 
  • 1/3 c. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

| Instructions

  • In a small sealable container, combine feta, 1/2 cup oil, thyme, rosemary and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Toss to coat. Cover and allow to marinate at least 2 hours, the longer the better.
  • Preheat oven to 425. Arrange citrus slices on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast citrus, flipping once, 10-15 minutes. The slices will begin to caramelize and be charred in spots. Thinner slices will cook much faster, so remove smaller pieces as they finish. 
  • Meanwhile, drain feta, reserving 1/4 cup oil. In a small bowl combine oil, rice vinegar, pepper and salt. Whisk to combine. Set dressing aside. 
  • Combine roasted citrus, feta, arugula and avocado in a large bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette to taste (or leave on the side) and toss gently to coat.