Citrus Salad With Rose Water

This salad is loosely adapted from May Bsisu's The Arab Table: Recipes & Culinary Traditions (William Morrow 2005). Cutting out the fruit segments is a messy job, but not terribly difficult and well worth the trouble. Is it worth the trouble to blanch the pistachio nuts? Up to you. I like it because it gives you a lovely, brilliant green contrast to the sunset colors of the fruit. But they would probably taste just as good unblanched.

Citrus Salad With Rose Water i i
T. Susan Chang for NPR
Citrus Salad With Rose Water
T. Susan Chang for NPR

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons rose water

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 or 3 grapefruits

4 oranges

1/2 cup shelled roasted pistachio nuts

To make the syrup, combine the rose water, sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat to a gentle simmer. Stir until the sugar is just dissolved. Set aside to cool.

To separate the grapefruit and orange segments from their skins: With a serrated knife (I find a steak knife actually works best), cut about 1/2 inch off the top and bottom of the fruit, at the stem and blossom ends. The north and south poles will now have flat surfaces, with a bit of the interior flesh showing. With your knife, carefully cut off the peel and pith, curving down and around to follow the shape of the fruit. Be sure to remove all of the pith and skin so that the juicy segments are exposed.

Now for the messy (but not hard) part: Holding the fruit in one hand, hold your knife in the other and use it to gently saw each segment away from the skin separating it from the next. (Sometimes you may be able to simply pull the skin away with your fingers, as if you were turning the pages of a book). By the end you will have a pulpy, juicy mess in your non-dominant hand and a pile of neat segments in your mixing bowl or cutting board.

To blanch the pistachio nuts (optional): Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Simmer the pistachio nuts for two minutes and strain. When cool enough to handle, turn the nuts out onto a clean dishcloth, fold the dishcloth over to enclose them and rub lightly. Most of the skins will come off without complaint. Don't worry about the ones that don't.

Combine the citrus segments, rose water syrup and about half the pistachios in a serving bowl. Gently toss with your fingers or a spatula. Cover and refrigerate the salad. When ready to serve, scatter the remaining pistachios on top (they'll stay crisper if you leave this till the last moment). Best served well chilled.

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