Mandarin Mixed Green Salad

Ann Fulton

By Ann Fulton

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Sweet oranges, buttery avocado, salty feta, and a mix of crisp greens combine with a flavor-packed vinaigrette that is sure to become a favorite!

A crisp, colorful salad can breathe life to a winter meal, and this fresh combination offers a pleasing palette of flavor and texture: sweet oranges, buttery avocado, a pop of salty feta, and a bed of crisp greens. The flavor-packed vinaigrette is worth returning to again and again!

 

 

 

 

 

We don’t usually think of winter as prime fruit-bearing months, but oranges are an exception. In fact, this sweet, juicy fruit truly hits it prime as the weather gets cold.

While the classic navel orange remains popular for its sweet, juicy, seedless appeal, there seems to be an ever-growing abundance of smaller varieties, including tangerines, clementines, satsumas, and more.

But what really is the difference?

First, I will mention that you may absolutely use your preferred variety of orange for this salad, which is a variation of a recipe shared with me by the wife of a talented photographer with whom I have had the pleasure of working.  

It’s the sort of salad that breathes life into an array of cold weather meals. The fresh crunch of lettuce and the sweet pop of orange combine with a short list of other ingredients to offer a crisp counterpoint to the likes of pasta, poultry, roasts, and other classic comfort foods.

With its punch of vinegar, the homemade dressing, which can be made ahead and used for several salads (and doubled easily), stands up well to bold flavors. At the same time, the fresh burst of citrus and hint of sweetness complement lighter fare like seafood. 

Sweet oranges, buttery avocado, salty feta, and a mix of crisp greens combine with a flavor-packed vinaigrette that is sure to become a favorite!

To mix up the winter dinner rotation, I like to serve a hearty portion of this salad with a simple protein like chicken or salmon. It’s the sort of produce-forward meal we often think of during the warmer months, but my family enjoys it as a welcome balance to other frequently requested fare like mac and cheese and meatloaf.

To bolster this sort of simple meal, you could serve it with cornbread or a crusty roll. A variety of roasted vegetables, from broccoli and Brussels sprouts to winter squash complement nicely, too-as does a simple baked potato, regular or sweet. 

Sweet oranges, buttery avocado, salty feta, and a mix of crisp greens combine with a flavor-packed vinaigrette that is sure to become a favorite!

For its tangy sweetness and juicy bite, the orange is the star of this salad. As mentioned, you may absolutely use your favorite variety-from navel and Cara Cara to clementines. I have gravitated towards several varieties of the mandarin orange. 

Beyond their easy-to-peel convenience, these smaller varieties are consistently juicy, sweet, and seedless. Also, because there is no need to chop the bite-size sections, the fruit delivers a crisp pop and the juice doesn’t create too much moisture in the dressed salad.  

My kids have long enjoyed snacking on clementines. More recently, we have enjoyed the super sweet satsumas. They practically peel themselves and often come with their leaves in tact, which looks rather pretty.

Whichever orange variety you choose, there’s something uplifting about the sweet citrus scent that fills the air when the peel is broken. The essential oils in the rind carry the fragrant aroma, and you can think of it as a calming mini-dose of aromatherapy. Added value for sure!

Sweet oranges, buttery avocado, salty feta, and a mix of crisp greens combine with a flavor-packed vinaigrette that is sure to become a favorite!

Winter is prime time for naturally sweet, vibrant oranges of all kinds. This recipe pairs them with a short list of complementary ingredients and a flavor-packed vinaigrette for a unique salad that may become a seasonal favorite. 

Sweet oranges, buttery avocado, salty feta, and a mix of crisp greens combine with a flavor-packed vinaigrette that is sure to become a favorite!

Is a mandarin the same as a clementine? And are they all oranges? 

Tangerines, clementines, mandarins, satsumas-even “cuties” and “sweeties.” There are so many names used to describe small, orange citrus fruits, and it can be somewhat confusing. So what are the differences and how can you tell them all apart?

Mandarins are a type of orange and the category under which tangerines, clementines, and satsumas fall. These fruits are typically smaller and sweeter than standard oranges (like navels) and somewhat flatter in shape. They also have a thinner, looser skin that makes them easier to peel.

  • Tangerines have a bright orange, slightly mottled peel that is a little tougher than that of a clementine. Their flavor is sweet-tart, and they are one of the larger members of the mandarin family. Tangerines generally have one seed per segment. 
  • Clementines are the smallest member of the mandarin family, and have become popular for their sweet, seedless segments and smooth, glossy peel that tends to come off rather easily. Often sold in a net bag, some people refer to these as “cuties” or “sweeties,” which is essentially catchy marketing.
  • Satsumas originated in Japan and are yet another kind of mandarin orange. They are the sweetest, most tender variety and the easiest of all to peel-and seedless, too. Because they are the most fragile variety of mandarin, they can be harder to find in supermarkets.

 

What about the canned variety?

Growing up, I considered canned mandarin oranges to be a real treat. Though they won’t provide that crisp pop I mentioned, they will provide the classic flavor that complements this salad. If you enjoy them, feel free to put them to use. Simply drain well, and figure one 11-ounce can of drained mandarin oranges amounts to roughly 1¼ cups. This is the equivalent of 2-4 of the fresh variety, depending on size and variety of the fresh counterpart used. 

Sweet oranges, buttery avocado, salty feta, and a mix of crisp greens combine with a flavor-packed vinaigrette that is sure to become a favorite!

Though navel and Cara Cara oranges are fair fame in this salad, I have gravitated towards the smaller mandarin orange varieties like clementines and more recently the super sweet satsumas, which practically peel themselves. The advantage is that the bite-size sections need not be cut. This means the juice won’t water down the dressing and the uncut sections provide a crisp pop-a sweet textural perk! 

Sweet oranges, buttery avocado, salty feta, and a mix of crisp greens combine with a flavor-packed vinaigrette that is sure to become a favorite!

This medley of fresh flavors will wake up your senses and add something special to a variety of meals, from chicken and fish to steak, simple pastas, and veggie burgers.      

Mandarin Mixed Green Salad
Yield: 4 side or 2 entrée-size servings
This colorful salad is a delightful way to freshen up winter meals. I mix the dressing in advance so I can pull the salad together quickly at dinnertime. For a complete meal, we enjoy the salad with fish or chicken, although you can hardly go wrong with steak, pork, pasta, or a veggie burger.
For the vinaigrette (makes enough for 2 salads):
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) sherry vinegar*
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) freshly squeezed orange or mandarin juice
  • 2 tablespoons (24g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
For the salad:
  • 5 cups (about 5 ounces or 4 large handfuls) mix of lettuces (For a colorful mix of soft and crisp, I like butter and romaine and sometimes add some spinach)
  • 1 lightly rounded cup orange sections (about 2-3 clementines/satsumas, 1 large orange, or 1 (11-ounce can) mandarin oranges, well drained)
  • 1 small or ½ a large avocado, chopped
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) crumbled feta cheese
  • Optional: ¼ cup toasted or salted pistachios, chopped or slivered almonds, or nuts/seeds of choice
Instructions:

To prepare the vinaigrette, combine the sherry vinegar through salt in a small bowl or jar; stir with a whisk or screw on the lid and shake well. Set aside. Storage: The vinaigrette will keep for a week or more in the refrigerator and may be doubled.
To prepare the salad, combine the lettuces, orange sections, avocado, onions, and feta in a large bowl. Add the nuts or seeds, if using. Pour about half of the vinaigrette over salad mixture-just enough to lightly but evenly coat-and toss gently to coat.

Notes:

*Sherry vinegar adds a uniquely delicious flavor to the vinaigrette, so I encourage you to seek it out if you don’t have any on hand. In a pinch, I’d opt first for red wine vinegar and then apple cider vinegar. There is a hint of sweetness to sherry vinegar, so if you substitute, you may wish to taste the dressing before you add it to the salad and add an extra pinch of sugar if necessary.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

Sweet oranges, buttery avocado, salty feta, and a mix of crisp greens combine with a flavor-packed vinaigrette that is sure to become a favorite!

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Comments

  1. AvatarBecky

    Where can you find satsumas in Lancaster County? I can’t say that I have ever seen this type of mandarin in local supermarkets.

    Reply
    1. AnnAnn Post author

      Hi Becky, In the past few weeks, I’ve seen satsumas at Wegmans and at Lemon Street Market. Stauffer’s, Weis, Giant, and Whole Foods may have them. However, I haven’t been to those stores recently. You could call to find out and save a trip. Clementines are an excellent substitute. The satsumas are a novelty, so fun to try when and if you see them.

      Reply