Recently I admitted to a friend that we rarely make the same meal twice. I blame it on my stash of cookbooks, on Pinterest and blogs, on swoon-worthy restaurant meals, and having learned to be experimental in the kitchen. I’m always trying something new, which is adventurous and all, but it’s also kind of shame when I think back to some of the great meals I neglect to make again. I definitely need to work on dusting off old recipes more often. This salad is one of those–in fact, I’ve shared it here before, but it got lost in the shuffle of transferring posts over to the new site. I call it my signature salad because it really is one of those simple recipes I’ve made, and will continue to make, again and again. It’s the most perfect combination of my favorite flavors–creamy avocado, juicy pink cara cara oranges, and salty cojita cheese with a spicy kick from jalapeño vinaigrette. Two weekends ago I took this over to our friends’ home for taco night, and it was a hit. Mixing Boston lettuce with the peppery watercress expands it for a crowd (the recipe below served 6), and a variety of substitutions will work in case you can’t find some of the ingredients.
Cara Cara, Avocado & Cojita Salad with Jalapeño Dressing
For the dressing:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed cara cara or tangerine juice
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Cara Cara oranges, cut into thin rounds (substitute: tangerines, navel or blood oranges)
2 avocados, thinly sliced
1-2 bunches of watercress, thick stems removed (substitute: arugula or baby spinach)
1 head of Boston lettuce, torn
Fresh cojita cheese, crumbled (substitute: queso fresco or feta cheese)
2 handfuls of pepitas, toasted
Simmer the orange juice in a small saucepan until it reduces to about 2 tablespoons and becomes syrupy in consistency, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Roast the jalapeño directly over a gas flame (or in a skillet), turning occasionally until it blisters and is charred all over. Let cool, then remove the stem, skin and seeds. Chop it finely. In a small bowl, whisk together half of the jalapeño (or all for more heat), shallot, orange juice syrup and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the vegetable and olive oils. To make the salad, mix together the Boston lettuce and watercress in a shallow salad bowl. Dress lightly with some of the vinaigrette. Top with the Cara Cara oranges, cojita, sliced avocado, and toasted pepitas. Finish with freshly ground salt and pepper.