This mandarin orange salad is packed with delicious flavors: mandarin oranges, apples, cranberries, feta cheese, and easy stovetop candied almonds. Plus an easy citrus vinaigrette that is sweet, tangy, and refreshing!
When I was about thirteen years old I became obsessed with dinner parties. And by “dinner parties” I mean decorating the dining table for a fancier family dinner. We have nine people total in my family, so it makes for a pretty good “party”.
I’d recruit my younger sister and we would make a pop-up type restaurant in our kitchen. We’d hang sheets to divide the dining table from the kitchen and set up an elaborate “restaurant” using stuffed animals from our bedrooms or (I’m sure to my mother’s dismay) removing various decorations from the rest of the home to add it to our restaurant.
One time we did an Asian-inspired restaurant which was extremely decorated thanks to my obsession with panda bears and bamboo plants. I’m pretty sure there was very little room for my family to even set down a plate.
We’d decorate our own menus in the “Paint” program of the computer complete with a ridiculous amount of bright-colored “shapes” for menu decorations. We’d prepare the food based off our menus and then serve it to the rest of our family on trays.
This past Monday, I had the amazing opportunity to visit a pop-up restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee for their second filming of Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef. A novice cook and his wife (Travis and Claire) transformed their home into a pop-up one-night-only dining experience. Travis was taught by an acclaimed Nashville chef how to make an amazing meal using various types of salt.
There were beautifully written chalkboard menus inside the home next to the kitchen and an entire restaurant scene set up in their backyard. String lights, rustic tables, tea light candles, freshly cut yellow flowers, clipboard menus, and live music were some of the highlights of the restaurant.
It was so beautifully set-up and, as cheesy as it sounds, truly a dream for the little girl that used to make pop-up restaurants using stuffed animals and household fake plants for decorations.
While the ambience was truly incredible, the food was even better. I can honestly say I had the very best prepared beets I’ve ever eaten in one of the dishes served to us. At the event, we were taught the benefits of using Morton Kosher and Sea Salt versus standard table salt when cooking. It is amazing to hear all the ways salt can completely transform a dish.
I’ll be sharing more information about the salt and food we enjoyed in a few months!
And now on to the salad! This salad has all of my favorite components — fruit, candied nuts, and a sweet poppyseed dressing. It’s an absolute must-try this holiday season!
Thanks to the fine sea salt in the dressing, the orange poppyseed dressing in this salad is perfectly seasoned and the sweetness is balanced perfectly. The dressing is a matter of just blending a few ingredients together and it’s all ready to go.
The fruit is super quick to prepare especially if you opt for using canned mandarin oranges. As much as I love fresh clementines, canned mandarin oranges make a pretty delicious salad addition because of their sweetness from the syrup they are canned in and their soft texture. You’ll get plenty of crunch from the apple so it’s nice to have the two different textures.
And finally, the nuts. If you’ve never tried to candy nuts, this is the place to start. You don’t need a ridiculous amount of ingredients (only TWO — the nuts and sugar) and it can all be done on the stovetop instead of in the oven. Making candied almonds is quick and adds a lot to a simple salad.
Hope you get a chance to try this salad sometime this holiday season and that you LOVE it. I can’t wait to share more with you about the recipes we tried at the event this past week.
Main Dishes that pair well with this salad:
A great holiday entertaining salad -- mandarin orange, apples, cranberries, feta cheese, and easy stovetop candied almonds all covered in a delicious orange poppyseed dressing.
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 10 ounces mixed green lettuce or fresh spinach
- 1 can (15 ounces) mandarin oranges
- 2 large apples thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 large orange (2 teaspoons zest and 4 tablespoons juice)
- 1 large lemon (1/2 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)
- 2 and 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
In a large skillet, add the sliced almonds and white sugar. Place the heat to medium-high and stir near constantly. The sugar will begin to melt and become a sticky liquid and then stick to the almonds. This takes about 3-4 minutes -- watch carefully and stir near constantly to avoid burning the nuts.
Dump the candied almonds onto a sheet of parchment paper and let harden. Break apart.
Thinly slice the apples and toss with lemon juice.
In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, well-drained mandarin oranges, sliced apples, dried cranberries, and feta cheese.
For the dressing: combine all of the ingredients together except for the oil and poppyseed in a blender. Blend until all ingredients are well incorporated. Slowly add in the oil in a steady stream and pulse until combined.
Stir in the poppyseeds.
Right before enjoying, add the dressing (add to taste -- you may not need it all) and candied almonds. Toss and enjoy immediately.
*If you plan on having leftovers, only toss the dressing and almonds with what will get eaten to avoid a soggy salad. This dressing makes enough for 2 full salad recipes. If you want the halved version (I do this often so nothing goes bad) it is: 1/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil, 1 large orange (1 teaspoons zest and 2 tablespoons juice), 1 large lemon (1/4 teaspoon zest and 1 tablespoons juice), 1 and 1/4 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, heaping 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1 teaspoon poppy seeds