Fennel and orange salad
If you haven’t been using fennel in your cooking I encourage you to try it. It has a crisp texture and anise-like flavour that may take getting used to but once you do, it’s very attractive. Fennel makes a beautiful base for a salad and pairs well with citrus, pomegranates, olives, celery, Belgian endive and a few cheeses, such as parmesan, pecorino and mild blue cheese.
For a salad I like to slice it thinly on a mandolin, add a few compatible ingredients and toss with olive oil and lemon juice, the way the do it in Italy, or a vinegar based dressing. When you make a dressing for fennel think citrus flavours.
In Italy they sometime serve thinly sliced fennel at the end of a meal as a palate cleanser, and Indian restaurants serve sugared fennel seeds at the end of a meal for the same reason. It does have a refreshing, cleansing qualities to it.
Fennel is in season from fall to spring but you know, today you can get it all year. Did you know that fennel has a “gender”? The round and plump bulbs are the male and the slender elongated ones are female. Marcella Hazan suggest to use the round bulbs for salad and the slender ones for cooked dishes, but says that the round bulbs “will always taste better”.
This recipe makes a rather substantial salad so if you are serving it for a multi course dinner, serve in smaller portions
1 fennel, trimmed on top and bottom and cut in quarters vertically
1 Belgian endive, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
2 radishes, sliced
1 scant cup pomegranate seeds
About 20 mint leaves
A handful fennel fronds
1/2 cup candied hazelnuts
Juice from one lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and ground pink peppercorns
Slice the fennel quarters on a mandolin into thin slices, place in a bowl.
Add the Belgian endive and radish slices.
Remove the peel from the oranges and cut the segments onto the salad over the bowl, letting the juices drip over the salad. Squeeze the rest of the juice from the orange over the salad.
Mix the dressing ingredients and taste. It should be zesty. Adjust with more lemon juice or more oil as needed.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad and mix gently.
Add the mint, fennel fronds and pomegranates.
Arrange the salad in individual bowls, scatter chopped caramelizes nuts over, dividing them among the plates.
Serve with a wedge of lemons on the side.