Bold, aromatic, and beautiful, this sweet salad is just what you need to brighten up a rainy spring morning. Citrus is often celebrated at the warmest and darkest times of the year, but bringing them in as the weather transitions may help you recover more quickly from that flu you picked up. As a bonus, it can support glowing skin, improve digestion and reduce inflammation. Enjoy the Citrus Salad for brunch this weekend!
Preparation Time: 20 minutes.
Cooking Time: 0 minutes.
Makes: 4 servings.
Challenge Weeks: 1, 13, Living WILDFIT
- 8 cups arugula
- 1 grapefruit, peeled and sliced into rounds (if you know it does not affect your medication, otherwise substitute)
- 1 pomelo, peeled and sliced into rounds, then quarters
- 2 medium navel oranges peeled and sliced into rounds
- 1 or 2 medium ripe avocados peeled and sliced
- ½ cup of pomegranate arils seeds
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons raw honey
- Juice of ½ a lemon (2 Tablespoons)
- ½ Tablespoon stone-ground mustard
- 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
This dish is so simple to put together, it just requires a quick dressing, some gentle peeling, and slicing. Yet each ingredient used contains potent health attributes which support your immune system. To begin, prepare your Honey & Poppy Seed Dressing. In a small glass jar combine the honey, lemon juice, mustard and salt then stir to combine. Be sure to use raw honey as it contains flavonoids and polyphenols which act as antioxidants that protect the structural integrity of cells and tissues and have the ability to neutralize free radicals, preventing damage to immune cells. Pasteurized honey is essentially syrup and has lost these health benefits. In a similar manner of thinking, also be sure to use old-fashioned, natural mustard so that you can gain the benefits of the antioxidants in mustard seeds that may offer some protection against bacteria and fungi in your body.
Slowly pour the oil into the jar while using a fork or small whisk to emulsify. We want to be mindful about the fats we consume, and high quality olive oil is still one of the best choices. Two or three tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil each day can provide an immune system boost because olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties and is a good source of antioxidants.
Finally, add the poppy seeds, place the lid on the jar tightly and shake until well combined. Set aside for the flavors to meld. The zinc in poppy seeds can contribute to a strengthened immune system ward off respiratory problems. The iron in these seeds also enhances the production of immune cells in the body.
Now it is time to put together the fruit in the salad. If you are using a fresh pomegranate cut and peel it and then set aside ½ of the juicy, red arils. I am able to buy the seeds pre-packaged in my frozen food section, so I just measure out ½ cup and set them aside to thaw. These seeds have a very thin skin and are quite delicate, so you need to be gentle with them or they will bleed and stain the other elements of whatever you’re making. (As an aside though, that makes them a great natural food dye!) Pomegranates have been shown to be antibacterial and antiviral in lab tests. Being rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, pomegranates are extremely healthy for those suffering from immune-related disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. They are also rich in vitamins C and E, which boosts antibody production and helps in the development of better immunity.
Now get your citrus fruits ready! I chose from the variety I had available to create a beautiful mix of colors and flavors and you can do the same. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which encourages your immune system to produce white blood cells, which are necessary to fight infections. This vitamin also acts as a free radical, seeking out dangerous, inflammatory free radicals and eliminating them from your body before they can cause real damage. Vitamin C is also required for the biosynthesis of collagen, L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters that are important for iron absorption and are involved in protein metabolism. In short, this nutrient is vital because without it we quickly disintegrate and die. Also, our body doesn’t create or store this vitamin, so you need it daily for continued health.
The citrus fruits originate in the south of Asia, but were named in Europe. In the beginning there were only three distinct species- the pomelo, mandarin and citron, and all other citrus were bred out from them. The first evidence of citrus in the northwest was when an Archaeobotanist discovered remains of a 2500 year old citron tree in a royal garden in Jerusalem, which was part of a Persian province at the time. From this time forward, citrus fruits have been written about for their healing and cleaning powers and their pleasant smell. The fruits even took on a religious significance in some early civilizations.
A lot of the botanical healing properties exist in the rind of the citrus fruit, however in modern times it is difficult to safely consume those rinds due to pesticides and herbicides unless they are homegrown. So, peel your citrus fruits with a paring knife, removing as much pith as possible. Next slice them into rounds crosswise or into segments lengthwise, as you prefer. I chose to cut them into rounds so as to expose the bright colours within the membrane and let the juices mix. The pomelo rounds are quite large, so they can be quartered.
Pomelo’s also have a thick rind, which can be intimidating to someone who never eats them! To cut open a pomelo, first slice off the narrow top. Then make about six to eight incisions lengthwise around the pomelo, cutting down into the pith but stopping before you reach the flesh. Remove the rind and as much of the pith as you can, since it has a bitter flavor.
This recipe also includes avocado for both visual and flavour contrast to balance the dish. The avocado adds depth and a buttery, earthy taste for the acidity of the citrus to cut through. It’s creamy texture makes the dish more satisfying. Using a sharp knife, slice your avocado in two and remove the seed. Then score the flesh into bite sized pieces, cutting without going through the rind and set both halves aside. Avocado oxidizes quickly, reacting to the air and browning, which is not a good look. Keeping the pieces in their skin until serving will keep them a vibrant green, and then the lemon juice in the dressing will preserve them. When ready to serve, gently squeeze the skin to release the pieces or scoop out with a spoon and arrange them on the salad.
The unsaturated fat in avocados can act as an immune system nutrient booster by helping increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E. This fruit also provides a good source of copper and magnesium which are essential minerals that help keep your immune system healthy. They also contain a generous amount of vitamin B6, which is responsible for helping the body to make antibodies, which are produced by your body’s immune system when it detects harmful substances like bacteria and viruses.
Whether you are serving this dish at brunch or dinner may determine how you plate it. It looks beautiful arranged on a serving platter but can also make an elegant appetizer or dessert when each element is stacked vertically on a small salad plate and drizzled with dressing. If it is a more casual meal, you may just choose to toss everything in the salad bowl- the choice is yours! This should be considered before you plate the arugula, the last important element of our salad. The arugula adds both spicy slightly bitter elements to the dish, rounding out the flavor and adding even more nutritional value.
Arugula is loaded with vitamins and minerals that can boost the defenses of the body’s immune system. The body is stimulated to create white blood cells from the Vitamin C and copper in these salad leaves, and the plant has several other ways to improve the strength of your immune system. Arugula also has a very low level of oxalates as compared to other leafy vegetables so minerals contained in the leaves are more easily absorbed by the body.
Create a bed of arugula greens, layer the colourful citrus pieces and the avocado pieces over top, drizzle on the dressing and garnish with the pomegranate seeds. Keep in the fridge, covered, up to 2 hours before serving or serve immediately at room temperature for the most flavourful experience. Enjoy!
NOTE: Switch out grapefruit for a different citrus if you are taking Lipitor, which is meant to help lower cholesterol, Nifediac, which is meant to help lower blood pressure, Buspar, which is taken for anxiety, and Allegra, a popular antihistamine. This is because many drugs are broken down (metabolized) with the help of a vital enzyme called CYP3A4 in the small intestine. Grapefruit juice can block the action of CYP3A4, so instead of being metabolized, more of the drug enters the blood and stays in the body longer. The result: too much drug in your body.