Winter. Ugh. I consider its redeeming qualities to be few: hearty bowls of pasta; hot chocolate (note: chocolate, not cocoa); fireplaces; and the occasional sparkling snowfall are as many as I can list. Oh, and multicolored citrus. Thank goodness for pretty citrus. When it's dull, dreary and frigid outside, regular bites of vibrancy are all the more important. Cara caras, minneolas, blood oranges and satsumas: These are barren winter's jewels.
Sumac is another pantry gem. The dried, pulverized berries of the sumac plant are fruity, citrusy and earthy, as if lemons, dried cherries, salt and dried oregano went out in the woods and got real. I grew up showering my basmati rice with the stuff, and today I throw it into vinaigrette, stir it into yogurt with garlic and salt, sprinkle it on pasta aglio e olio, on eggs with thyme...it goes on. Here's one properly bright way to put it, and those citrusy jewels, to use:
Orange Salad with Sumac Vinaigrette
Orange juice squeezed from the bits of fruit left on the citrus peels (see below)
Sumac (a hefty pinch or two)
Fruity olive oil (the best you have!)
Salt & pepper
Oranges (blood and cara cara are the two used here), with the peel and pith cut off (and saved -- see above), and fruit sliced into rounds
Radicchio leaves, torn
Dill or fennel tops, roughly chopped
Parmesan, shaved into strips with a vegetable peeler
Make the vinaigrette: Stir together the ingredients, adding more sumac than you think is reasonable (it's reasonable, I promise). Pour the vinegar with a light hand; the vinaigrette should be fruity, citrusy and just gently acidic.
Combine the salad ingredients, except for the Parmesan, and toss with the vinaigrette. Plate the salad, and top it with the shaved parmesan and another turn of the pepper grinder.