A salty, cold orange salad more refreshing than the fruit

Cold and salty orange salad
Sweet orange citrus is enhanced by salty feta, celery and Castelvetrano olives in this simple winter salad.
(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)

There are people who eat fruit as a snack, and then there’s me. It’s not that I haven’t tried. Currently, as I stock up on fruit from the farmers market, I have grand visions of reaching for an orange from the fruit bowl, peeling it with my hands, then enjoying the juicy pops of the sections as I eat them. Healthy! Refreshing! “Mother Nature’s candy,” I’ve even heard, clenching my smile to stave off an eye roll. It should be so easy, but I can never commit.

Inevitably, I reach for a piece of cake or chips instead (don’t worry, I balance my diet in other ways) and have at this point in my life overcome the guilt that used to accompany that.

No, I love fruit best when it’s cooked down into a sweet jam or marmalade, baked under a bubbling biscuit crust or even blended into ice cream or sorbet. Influenced by a Southern upbringing, my predilection for eating fruit coated in sugar and butter is a difficult habit to break.


However, the one time I will happily eat fruit in a raw-ish state is citrus season. All those sweet oranges — Cara Caras, page and kishu mandarins and tangerines — are too wonderful to tarnish by cooking. Instead of eating them out of hand, though, I put in the smallest bit of effort and turn them into a salad. But there are no lettuce leaves or other vegetables in this salad to distract from the star ingredients. It’s just cold citrus slices, seasoned with a simple vinaigrette and garnished with a few salty toppings to balance all that sweetness.

On a platter, I layer slices of at least three different sweet orange citrus: something large like Cara Caras or organic navels, something small like kishus, and then always blood oranges for their deep ruby color. Then, I mix up a tame rice vinegar dressing enhanced with some of the citrus zest and a pinch of chile flakes to spoon over the top, absorbing into their membranes and mingling with their juices. The vinaigrette makes the oranges taste, um, orange-ier!

Paper-thin slices of celery add crunchy salinity, while crumbles of feta offer a creamy, condensed brine, and torn Castelvetrano olives provide a pop of fatty brackishness. This trio of salty garnishes balances the sweet citrus perfectly, turning them into something one step removed from raw but exponentially more fun to eat.

Cold and Salty Orange Salad

Time 20 minutes, plus 1 hour unattended
Yields Serves 2 to 4