This is by far THE best orange salad we have ever made. The first time we served it we devoured it, then craved it afterwards for days. Martha Holmberg, author and creator of this Spanish-inspired vinaigrette, writes in her book Modern Sauces, “I’m addicted to this flavor combination. It tastes like the exotic vacation I never quite manage to take.” This salad tastes like an exotic vacation – what more can I say?
I first discovered this orange salad via Pinterest on the blog Pure Wow. Long time readers will remember in the past that I’ve made other oranges salads. In fact my original orange salad, a French Orange & Onion Salad shown here, was our introduction to several bloggers that are now good friends of ours. So never underestimate the power of an orange salad.
There are several things that make this recipe so special. First is smoky Spanish paprika, also known as pimentón de la Vera. It is rust red in color with a unique smoky flavor. It’s used in countless Spanish recipes and the key ingredient in an authentic paella. It comes in 3 types – sweet (dulce), medium-hot (agriduce), & hot (picante). Smoky paprika can be found in specialty stores or on line at La Tienda.
The second thing that makes this recipe special is sherry vinegar. I am constantly reaching for my sherry vinegar when I make vinaigrettes and it’s easy to find in supermarkets and specially stores such as Fresh Market or on line here. To quote the site Serious Eats, who wrote why sherry vinegar should be your number one choice in vinegars here, “Sherry vinegar is loaded with complex, nutty flavors you won't find in other vinegars. And its 80 distinct aromatic compounds translate into more interesting salad dressings and crazy-good accents in soups and pan sauces that apple cider or rice vinegar could never hope to imitate.”
The third thing is Aleppo pepper flakes, which I use on just about everything now and I cannot live without it. The Aleppo flakes are the bright red dots you see on the oranges. More and more we reach for the Apello pepper flakes instead of crushed red pepper. They are milder than crushed red pepper flakes and have a slightly raisin-like flavor. Aleppo pepper flakes comes from southern Turkey, near the Syrian town of Aleppo, which is considered one of the culinary meccas of the Mediterranean. I have yet to find them anywhere local, but Amazon & Penzey’s both carry them.
This orange salad is an elegant dish that I will serve over and over again. Recently for guests we paired it with Chicken Marbella, an old favorite of ours, found here. I can also see serving this orange salad with grilled steaks, roasted chicken, and of course it would pair beautifully with a baked ham for Easter. I hope you’ll find this exotic orange salad as delightfully addicting as we have.
Orange Salad dressed with Smoky Spanish-inspired Vinaigrette
Adapted from Modern Sauces by Martha Holmberg via Pure Wow, serves 4 to 6 (plus about ¾ cup vinaigrette)
1/8th of a small red onion, sliced paper-thin
3 juicy oranges (such as Navel or Blood)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, plus a sprig or 2 for garnish
½ teaspoon lightly packed finely grated orange zest
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons good sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Spanish sweet smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 drops hot-pepper sauce such as Sriracha (or to taste)
Maldon sea salt or kosher salt
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Aleppo chili flakes
Fill a small bowl with ice water and soak the onion slices for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Add the orange zest, orange juice, sherry vinegar, smoked paprika, sugar, hot sauce, and about ¼ teaspoon of sea salt that you’ve crushed with your fingers to a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well to combine, then let sit for a minute or two for salt to dissolve. Add olive oil and shake well to combine and set aside.
Working with one orange at a time, cut a slice off of each end to reveal the flesh. Stand the orange on a flat end on a work surface. Using a sharp knife, slice away the peel, including all of the white pith, cutting from the top to the bottom of the orange, following the contour of the fruit. Turn the peeled orange on its side and cut crosswise into ¼”rounds. Repeat with the remaining oranges. Arrange the oranges on a serving platter, overlapping them slightly.
Shake the vinaigrette well and pour a little vinaigrette over the oranges. Pour the remaining vinaigrette into a small pitcher for passing on the table.
Place the platter of oranges in the refrigerator. The salad can be prepared as much as 4 hours ahead and kept refrigerated.
20 minutes prior to serving, remove the oranges from the refrigerator and sprinkle with the Aleppo chili flakes. Drain the onion slices and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Scatter the onion over the oranges, then sprinkle with the cilantro before serving. Stir the extra vinaigrette well and pass in a pitcher at the table.
Cook's note. You may have some left-over vinaigrette. It can be stored in it's jar in the refrigerator for several days to use if you want to repeat the orange salad later in the week.