Citrus season is nearing its end, but I think there’s still time left to tell you about this salad. Last week I was down in Palo Alto where citrus grows like weeds. Unlike the kumquat tree that sits forlornly on my deck, clinging on to the few rays of northwest sun for dear life, the orange trees in Northern California are so heavy with fruit they hardly know what to do with themselves.
During my visit to citrus country, I stayed in an Air BnB room that should not go unmentioned, for reasons beyond the overladen orange tree outside the bedroom window. It wasn’t so much a room that was for rent as it was an entire wing: wood-paneled library, sitting room with piano, bedroom that dwarfed the California King bed, and marble bath. The house is on the market for 9.8 million dollars. Pause. Yes, that rounds up to a cool 10 mil. It sits on 1.6 acres - bigger than many of the town parks, really - a short block and a half from Mark Zuckerburg’s house (and the six surrounding houses he bought up to ensure his privacy.)
When you live alone in a seven bedroom house, I can imagine it gets a little lonely. The owner of the rent-a-mansion recently invited a family of four to live with her; they’re all entrepreneurs ‘trying a new multi-generational thing.’ And shortly afterwards the east wing went up on Air BnB for $125 a night, probably less than the pocket change it takes to pay for the lawn service.
I wandered the grounds one evening (not an activity one usually associates with an Air BnB room), through the hedge mazes surrounding a rose garden and bird bath, onto the kids trampoline, and peered through the back gate protected by towering oaks and a two-way lock system. It doesn't seem that neighbors do a lot of chatting over the fence in this neighborhood. There was a lawn bowling court, two patios, an outdoor barbecue station, and parking for eight.
Scattered throughout were plump orange trees, lousy with fruit. One tree next to the sitting room patio looked a bit like a kid's cartoon-like drawing: brown trunk, bushy green leaves, and perfect little circles of fruit hanging around the edges. “Take as much citrus as you want,” the owner offered. It seemed she didn’t know what to do with all her bounty; at least she could try to share the wealth.
Should you find yourself with a surfeit of citrus, or even just looking for a bright salad to get you through the fruit-doldrums of winter, this one’s a winner.
Avocado, Grapefruit, and Fennel Salad
Serves 4 as a side
The bright citrus in this salad pairs well with the creamy avocado. Thin shavings of fennel add a crunchy texture and licorice tone. Serve in the winter alongside bread and soup or as an accompaniment to a heavier pasta.
1/2 small fennel bulb, thinly shaved
1 avocado, sliced
1 grapefruit, supremed
For the vinaigrette:
Juice of one grapefruit
1/4 cup walnut oil
1 T maple syrup
1/4 t salt
Layer alternating slices of avocado and grapefruit on a serving plate. Top with a messy spray of shaved fennel.
Drizzle the dressing on generously, and top with a few sprigs of fennel tops.
Serve immediately to prevent avocado from browning.