As a full-time mom, I have a lot of time to simply watch Phoebe interact with her surroundings. Lately she’s become more interested in the phenomenon of repetition; all she wants to do is climb onto the ottoman over and over, or try to throw her toys after quite an elaborate wind-up routine, or dig in the pebbles in the driveway with her tiny, plump fingers (and try to put a couple pebbles in her mouth every 30 seconds—constant vigilance). Every day is filled with wonder for her as she gains more control over her body and uses it to affect the world around her. And it’s the same with food—some days she’ll be obsessed with cheese, the next day it’ll be all about blueberries. It’s not often we get to experience an action or flavor for the very first time, but she gets to do that all the time.
That childish wonder can be muted with adulthood as we learn to prioritize responsibilities, time management, and patience, but we often still find things that make us just as excited as when we were first discovering the world. My mom has lately been obsessed with toasted pumpkin seeds, putting them on everything and repeatedly asking us if we’d tried them yet. She made this citrus salad for us the other day and, I admit, at first I didn’t think it sounded mind-blowing, but as soon as I took a bite I felt like Phoebe: that salad had my full attention, and each bite was a joy. And like Phoebe, I just want to repeat that wonderful experience. Fortunately it’s super easy to make, so while Phoebs bangs two Playmobil people together for the millionth time, I can throw this citrus salad together and fill my day with a little wonder.
Since this salad is so simple, use the best ingredients you can find. Ideally, get your produce from the farmer’s market when it’s in season, and use the freshest, nicest olive oil you can afford—it really will make a difference.
Mom’s Citrus Salad with Avocado, Fennel, & Pumpkin Seeds
1 small-medium bulb fennel
1 cara Cara orange
1 tangerine or mandarin
feta (preferably sheep’s), a small handful
1 small watermelon radish (optional)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 tsp flaky salt
First, make the salted pumpkin seeds. Heat the 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds and 1 tbsp olive oil in a small pan over medium heat, stirring often until the pumpkin seeds start to brown and pop. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with 1/8 tsp fine sea salt. Let cool. (This will make more than you’ll likely need—eat them on eggs, another salad, or anything else.)
Next, prepare your ingredients. Remove any tough or damaged outer leaves from the fennel bulb, slice in half from top to bottom, and cut out the core. Slice the fennel, lengthwise, as thinly as you can.
Slice the tops and bottoms off of the Cara Cara and the tangerine—reserve those ends! Peel the citrus, slice in half, and then slice into thin half moons.
Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and peel each half. Slice into bite-sized chunks.
If using, peel the watermelon radish and slice into the thinnest rounds you can.
On a large platter or wide, shallow bowl, layer half of the fennel, then half of the orange and tangerine, half of the avocado, a crumbling of feta, and 1-2 tablespoons of the pumpkin seeds. Squeeze the juice from two of the citrus end pieces over the whole thing, then drizzle a little olive oil on top. Sprinkle with a little flaky salt. Repeat the layering process one more time, until you’ve used everything up. Finish it off with the citrus juice, olive oil, and more salt. Enjoy!