Did you ever eat a dish at a restaurant that just blew you away with how good it was? Something so delicious that everyone in the town was talking about it and ordered that dish when they went there? That is how the sweet and crunchy Mandarin Orange Pineapple Salad took over the coveted most ordered item spot at Cagney’s, a fine-casual eatery in downtown Charleston, West Virginia, some twenty-five years ago.
The fruit and crunchy nuts pair so well amidst crispy lettuces covered with a mouth-watering sweet vinaigrette dressing in this Mandarin Orange Pineapple Salad, that you can’t stop eating it. Like most salads that taste so good, this isn’t a dieters salad by any stretch, but it is perfect for serving as an every day dish, or even a special occasion. Those are the things I like to cook best—ones that double as something I would serve to my family at home to an impressive side dish for a party or special event.
The Mandarin Orange Pineapple Salad doesn’t really require measuring for anything other than the dressing amounts, you can improvise. It can be made with whatever veggies you have on hand, fresh or canned fruit, and store-bought or prepared candied or glazed nuts. You can switch out the lettuces, too, if you prefer something other than romaine and iceberg.
- 1 bag of romaine lettuce, washed and ready to use
- 1 bag shredded iceberg lettuce (or you can shred your own head of iceberg using a box grater)
- 1/2 cup grated carrots (I chop whatever kind of carrots I have on hand, and in this case, it was waffle carrots, which I use for eating dips)
- 1/3 cup finely diced celery
- 1/4 cup sliced red cabbage (I didn’t have any red cabbage on hand when I made the salad pictured, but it adds more flavor and a desired crunch factor)
- 1/4 to 1/2 thinly sliced cucumber (I like to remove a bit of the peel from my cucumber before slicing, but it isn’t necessary)
- 1 small can pineapple tidbits, drained on paper towels
- 1 small can mandarin orange segments, drained on paper towels
Sweet Vinaigrette Dressing
- 3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. celery seed (this is one of the key ingredients in this salad)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup good-quality salad oil (I used a mixture of olive oil, canola, and grapeseed)
- a scant 1/4 tsp. granulated garlic (if you do not have, you can mince garlic and then crush it with the back of a knife across your cutting board until it is almost like a paste)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Bag of candied almonds or glazed pecans (years ago I wouldn’t dream of buying pre-made candied nuts, but today they are every bit as good and not a pain to wrestle with making)
Homemade Dressing and Croutons
For the sweet vinaigrette dressing, add celery salt, sugar, salt, and vinegar to a plastic container with a lid. Add the granulated garlic. Stir well. Drizzle in oil while stirring, emulsifying the dressing. Apply container lid and shake well. Refrigerate until ready to use. The dressing can be used for up to a week as long as it stays refrigerated.
To make croutons, cut (or tear) 5 to 6 slices of bread (of your choice) into bite size pieces. Drizzle the bread with good-quality olive oil (or melted butter), and sprinkle with coarse salt, pepper, and a dash of garlic powder. Toss bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, tossing halfway during cooking time.
Note: The thickness and density of the bread you use will determine how long it needs to bake. The smaller the pieces, the shorter the cooking time. I prefer to use Italian or French bread, but anything you have on hand will be fine. Old bread is even better. I buy fancy breads when they are on sale and freeze for when I need them. It is a great way to save money and have things on hand for times like this.
Pour your lettuces into a mixing bowl. Add in the chopped vegetables and drained fruit. Mix by hand or toss gently with tongs or a spoon. Add the nuts and croutons. Drizzle salad with half of the salad dressing. Toss salad gently until all ingredients are coated with dressing and mixed thoroughly. Add more dressing, if necessary, and serve the remainder on the side.
This recipe has been on my dining room table for nearly thirty years and it is always well received and tastes delicious. The sweetness and crunch set this great summer salad apart from so many others, and I’m sure you will feel the same. It is also a sneaky way to get those who don’t typically eat fruit to do so.
Happy cooking and eating, friends!
Here are more of our tasty dishes to prepare for your family and friends: