Oranges, Caramelized Red Onions and Baby Spinach in Balsamic Vinaigrette
One of my all-time favorite restaurants is the legendary Inn at Little Washington in Washington, VA. I’ve only been there a few times – once for my college graduation and a few milestone birthdays – but I’ve had the cookbook, The Inn at Little Washington: A Consuming Passion by Patrick O’Connell, on my coffee table for over a decade. It’s one of those gorgeous cookbooks full of stories and photos that you can just slip away into.
Many of the recipes in the book are complex but this one is easy to make. O’Connell takes a classic Italian combination – oranges, red onions and greens – and gives it a Moroccan twist by adding cinnamon and nutmeg to the vinaigrette. Sounds unusual but it really works, and the flavors are perfect for fall.
It’s a terrific salad for entertaining because it’s elegant and different, and you can do all of the preparation ahead of time.
Let’s begin. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, spices and salt.
Dip the onion slices into the vinaigrette, being careful to keep the rings intact. Then arrange the onions on foil-lined baking sheet.
Broil until soft and lightly caramelized, 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t spark and burn.
Set aside until ready to assemble the salad. Next, slice the oranges into rounds and place them in a dish with the vinaigrette to marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours.
When ready to serve, arrange the baby spinach on a platter or individual plates, then top with the caramelized red onions and marinated oranges. Drizzle vinaigrette from soaked oranges over top or serve on the side.
Note: O’Connell serves the oranges and onions buffet-style on a platter garnished with watercress. I serve them on a bed of baby spinach instead because it’s a bit more substantial and watercress can be hard to find.
Oranges, Caramelized Red Onions and Baby Spinach in Balsamic Vinagrette
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 large red onion, cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds (try to keep the rounds intact)
- 4 naval oranges
- 7 ounces (about 5 cups) baby spinach (or watercress or arugula)
- Set oven rack 5-6 inches from top and preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Make vinaigrette by combining olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl.
- Dip onions into vinaigrette, being careful to keep rounds intact, and lay in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Broil until soft and caramelized, 5-10 minutes. Keep a close eye on them so they don't burn. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to assemble salad.
- Peel the oranges with a sharp knife (it's easiest to use a serrated knife), carefully removing all of the white membrane. Slice into rounds about 1/4-inch thick, remove any seeds, and place in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Pour vinaigrette over top, making sure oranges are well coated on both sides, and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours.
- To assemble the salad, place spinach on large platter or individual plates. Scatter caramelized onions over spinach, and then place marinated oranges on top. Quickly whisk vinaigrette from soaked oranges, then drizzle over top or serve on the side.
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