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Fresh salsa starts with fresh mandarins

Recipe: Seasonal condiment pairs well with chips or seafood

Tree design
Had to play with the mandarins a bit. These went into a lovely
fresh salsa. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

As much as I love the flavors of Thanksgiving, by the end of the holiday weekend I'm desperate for different ones -- but not Christmas flavors, not yet.

Fortunately, I have plenty of mandarins in that 10-pound bag I bought from one of our foothill growers. Mandarins aren't great for baking but they do play well in salads and other fresh creations.

Salsa, I decided, was about as far as I could get from mashed potatoes, turkey gravy and sage-scented stuffing. It relies on fresh ingredients at any time of year, including plenty of fresh cilantro.

I used the smallest of the mandarins that were in my bag, and 6 of those produced about 1 cup of chopped pieces, but adjust the number depending on the size fruit you have.

Try this salsa with tortilla chips or over some grilled seafood or chicken. Spice it up some more, with hotter peppers or some red-pepper flakes, if that's to your taste, too.

Ingredients on a black cutting board
Pull out those stringy bits from the middle
of the mandarin halves.
Mandarin and lime winter salsa

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Ingredients:

4 to 6 mandarins (Satsumas or clementines),  about 3/4 pound before peeling

1 jalapeño, de-seeded and minced (use 2, or another type of hot pepper, if you like)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves and some stems (about 1/3 of a bunch)

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Sprinkle of red-pepper flakes, optional

Salsa and chip
Give the flavors a chance to meld, then dig in!
Instructions:

Peel the mandarins, and separate into halves. Pull out the stringy middle and any other loose bits. Using a serrated knife, slice the halves horizontally across the segments and add them to a bowl. The cut segments will come apart on their own or can be easily pulled apart. You should have about 1 cup of segment pieces.

Stir in the minced jalapeño, the chopped cilantro, chopped onion, lime zest and juice. Add 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Taste and add more salt as needed. Stir in the sprinkle of red-pepper flakes if using.

The salsa can be served immediately, but I think it tastes better if it is chilled for 1 hour. Stir and taste again to adjust flavors before serving.

This salsa also is best the day it is made, but will keep in the refrigerator for another day or so.



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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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