A few years ago, a friend hosted a dinner party and served tomatoes, mozzarella and oranges as an appetizer.

“Oranges?” asked a guest.

“It’s how Vito does it,” my friend said, referencing her very Italian stepfather.

I have to say: All hail Vito. Oranges and tomatoes may sound like strange bedfellows, but they make a magical pairing. The oranges’ sweetness plays off the tomatoes’ acidity; the fruits’ melded juices could be marketed as the essence of summer.

I thought of Vito last night as I was making a tomato-avocado salad for supper. I combined tomatoes, avocados, jalepeno, red onion, cilantro, olive oil and lime juice, then tasted.

It was fine.

But then I spied the bowl of clementines sitting on the kitchen table.

“What would Vito do?” I wondered.

I peeled a couple of the citrus fruits and added the tiny segments to my salad. Then I tasted again.

avocado salad

What a difference! The oranges added a sweet pop that seemed to magnify the other flavors. We ate the salad as a side dish for dinner; for today’s lunch, I added some poached, shredded chicken and polished it off.

Try this dish the next time you’re looking for a summery, unexpected side or whenever you crave a light supper.

And use a heavy hand with your orange-tomato ratios. Make Vito proud.

Orange & Tomato Salad

 Use the freshest produce you can find in this salad. While it’s tasty right after preparing, try to make it an hour or so ahead of time so it can sit in the refrigerator. The juices from your citrus, oil and tomatoes will meld into a luscious, gazpacho-like sauce.

  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
  • 1 large tomato, cut into chunks
  • 2 clementines, peeled and broken into segments
  • 1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in ice water for 10-15 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon minced, seeded jalepeno (add more for extra spiciness)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or more if you want to ratchet up the green)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)

Drain the onion and pat it dry.

In a pretty bowl, combine the avocado, tomato, clementines, red onion, jalepeno, garlic and cilantro. Stir well, then squeeze in the lime juice.

Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir well.

Taste for balance, adding more olive oil and seasonings as needed. Your dish shouldn’t reek of citrus, but it shouldn’t be drowned out by oil, either. Play with the ratios until you get a taste you like.

Serves four.