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Symphony of citrus makes salad sing

Seasonal side dishes are giving way to asparagus and anything else green. It’s hard to give citrus the cold shoulder, though, when grocers are selling nearly all the varieties by the bag and priced to move.

Cara Cara and blood oranges started joining mandarins a few weeks back as varieties to purchase at a relative bargain this late in the citrus season. So I did, fully anticipating that the blood oranges would find their way into all manner of salads and cooked preparations.

Here’s one to kick off my efforts, combining some of my favorite flavors: feta and brined olives. And because I’m a huge fan of fennel, and not so inclined to celery, I’d substitute the former for its crunch and minerality touted by recipe developers for the Los Angeles Times.

Tribune News Service photo

Cold and Salty Orange Salad

1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) mixed orange citrus (consider Cara Cara, blood or navel oranges; tangerines, tangelos and mandarins)

1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 inner stalk of celery, thinly sliced

1 ounce (28 grams) feta, preferably in brine

4 green olives, preferably Castelvetrano, pitted and torn into 3 to 4 pieces

Take one of the smaller orange citruses and, using a Microplane, finely grate zest from half of it into a small bowl. Stir in the vinegar, olive oil and chile flakes, then season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Working on a cutting board, remove pith and peel from all citrus. For citrus bigger than a tennis ball, cut between membranes to free its wedge-like sections. For smaller citrus, simply slice across sections to make thin rounds, about 1/4 inch thick, removing any seeds as you go.

Transfer all sliced citrus and juices to a serving platter big enough to fit them in a single-ish layer and preferably one with a lip to contain juices. Spoon vinaigrette over slices.

Arrange celery slices evenly over citrus. If your feta comes with brine, drizzle a couple teaspoons of brine over salad. Roughly crumble feta and arrange it over salad, followed by olives. Cover entire salad with a sheet of plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate until cold, for at least 1 hour. Assembled salad, covered in plastic wrap, will hold in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Uncover salad and serve chilled. This is great as a side to salmon fillets, roast chicken thighs or sliced duck breast.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.