Friday, January 13, 2023

Winter citrus salad

I’m talking about a fresh start to the new year with in-season salad ingredients. We usually think of summer as "salad season," but winter can be salad season, too! 

Here is my go-to salad formula:

Base (lettuce, kale, chicories, cabbage, spinach) + Grain (quinoa, farro, bulgur, couscous) + Vegetables (raw or roasted) + Protein (egg, meat, chickpeas, beans, fish) + Saltiness (cheese, capers, olives) + Crunch (nuts, seeds, granola) + Herbs (mint, basil, parsley, cilantro) + Dressing (vinaigrette for delicate salad or creamy for hearty salad)

You don’t need to include all parts of the formula for a tasty salad. It depends on what vibe you’re going for, like if you want a meal salad or a side salad.

My favorite cold-weather crops for building a fresh seasonal salad include radicchio, kale, fennel, beets, and citrus.

Here are a few pointers for using each of the ingredients in the salad:

Kale: It's important to massage the kale to soften it. Add a little olive oil to your bowl of kale and massage it with your hands for about 3 minutes. This makes the kale easier to eat and more enjoyable.

Radicchio: This vegetable is in the chicory family. I like to prep radicchio by pulling the leaves off the head and tearing them into pieces. Radicchio, like all crops in the chicory family, can be quite bitter. Soak the radicchio in cold water for about half an hour to make it less bitter.

Fennel: Use a mandolin to get thin slices, and save the fronds to add with other herbs at the end.

Red onion: Slice your red onion very thin (I like to use a mandolin) so you don't experience the overpowering sharp bite of the vegetable. A good way to lessen the sharpness is to soak the red onion slices for 10 minutes in cold water. Or you can pickle the red onion, which is what I did.

Beets: I'm going to be honest, I just buy ready to eat cooked and peeled beets from the grocery store. It's just not worth the time and effort for me to do it myself anymore.

Mandarin oranges: Peeled mandarin orange segments have a white covering because of the pith, and you can't cut it off like you would with a regular orange. The best way to make them look prettier and more orange is to blanch them in boiling water for 10 seconds.

Blood oranges: I like to serve these supreme style. What that means is I cut off the top and bottom of the orange so the flesh is exposed. I then remove the peel and pith by running my knife along the curve of the fruit. Once the peel and pith are removed, you'll be able to see the membrane, which holds the segments together. I use my knife to cut inside on either side of the membrane, and I can easily remove each segment.

Grapefruit: I recommend storing the grapefruit in juices squeezed from the membrane. The fruit will stay fresher longer.

Feta: The best feta you can buy is whole block feta that you crumble yourself. Goat cheese would also probably work well in this salad.

Hazelnuts: I think hazelnuts are an underutilized nut that pair really well with citrus. It's important to toast them first, though. Once toasted, their papery skin should come right off. I toasted my hazelnuts at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes in avocado oil, a little salt, and cayenne. I love a sweet and spicy food pairing.

Mint: Mint is my herb of choice for this salad, but I think cilantro would work well, too. I think it's important to always finish your salad with fresh herbs.

Winter citrus salad

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 15 minutes


For the tahini dressing

  • 60 grams (1/4 cup) tahini
  • 60 milliliters (1/4 cup) lemon juice
  • 30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons) avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the salad

  • 4 stalks kale leaves (from about 4 ounces), chopped
  • 1/2 head radicchio leaves (about 4 ounces), torn
  • 1/2 fennel bulb (about 2 ounces), trimmed (save fronds), cored, thinly sliced 
  • 1/4 red onion (about 2 ounces), sliced very thin, pickled if desired
  • 2 beets (about 8 ounces), roasted, peeled, and cut into moons
  • 4 mandarin oranges, separated into segments
  • 3 blood oranges, supremed
  • 1 grapefruit, supremed
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • Optional: Farro, chicken


For the tahini dressing

  1. Combine all ingredients in mason jar and shake until fully incorporated.
  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the salad

  1. Arrange kale and radicchio on large platter and drizzle with dressing.
  2. Place fennel, red onion, beets, mandarin oranges, blood oranges, grapefruit, feta, hazelnuts, mint, and fennel fronds atop greens.


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