Many people associate bright citrus flavors with warm summer days spent poolside with a grapefruit margarita in hand. If you’re one of those people, you may be surprised to learn that December is actually peak citrus season. There is no better time than now to stock up on oranges, grapefruits, tangelos, and tangerines. I always try to incorporate many of these summery flavors into my winter cooking as a way to lift my mood during brutal Chicago winters.
I created this salad when I was in college and had an overabundance of Cuties lying around. I’m obsessed with those little easy-to-peel oranges and could eat 4 in one sitting. I knew that there had to be another way to eat them other than just by themselves, so I started throwing them in salads. It was then that I learned that bacon and oranges do not mix. I created this salad with what I had on hand at the time and it’s quickly evolved into my absolute favorite salad. I love the contrast of the bitter greens with the sweet juicy oranges and salty spongy feta. The red onions give a much needed spicy bite and walnuts add texture and savoriness. I know that beets aren’t for everyone, but they’re really incredible in this salad. Roasting brings out their inherent sweetness while homemade honey balsamic dressing cuts through their earthy flavor. I think this salad could turn a beet-hater into a beet-lover. I’m also really loving this salad right now because I overindulged way too much over the weekend. I celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday and my birthday on Saturday. So a healthy and delicious meal is exactly what I need!
Makes 4 side salads or 2 dinner salads.
- 3 beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- salt and pepper
- 16 oz of spring mix
- thinly sliced red onion
- walnuts or pecans
- 4 cuties (fresh mandarin oranges), or 1 grapefruit, peeled and segmented
- 1/2 cup feta
Honey Balsamic Dressing
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 3 tablespoons of aged balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
- a pinch of sugar
- salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil. Place chopped beets on the pan and coat with canola oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-35 minutes, or until they’re fork tender. Place beets in a bowl and allow to cool.
2. While the beets are roasting, assemble the dressing. Place all ingredients except for the salt and pepper into a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well. Grab a piece of lettuce and dip into the dressing to test the seasoning. Season accordingly and test again. Set the dressing aside to allow all of the flavors to meld together.
3. Place a handful of spring mix on each plate. Peel one cutie and place all segments around the outside in a circular pattern. You’ll want to use 1 entire cutie for each side salad or 2 cuties for each dinner salad. Then place a mound of beets in the center. Top it all off with a few slices of red onion followed up by a sprinkling of nuts and feta. Drizzle the honey balsamic on top and dig in!
How could anyone not love these earthy little gems?!