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Fennel & Orange Salad with Red Onion & Olives

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Serves six.

  • To learn more, read:
    Fennel: The Raw and the Cooked
  • by Janet Fletcher, Rosetta Costantino from Fine Cooking
    Issue 90

This popular Sicilian salad is made with blood oranges when they are in season, but navel oranges work just as well. I like to bring the salad to the table with the layers intact and toss it at the table.

  • One-half small red onion
  • 2 large navel oranges or blood oranges
  • 2 to 3 small fennel bulbs, trimmed (about 1 lb. total after trimming)
  • 6 dry-cured black olives
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh mint
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Slice the onion half lengthwise as thinly as you can. Put the sliced onion in a bowl and cover with cold water to mellow its flavor and keep it crisp. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Working with one orange at a time, slice off both ends. Set the orange on a cutting board, one cut side down. With a sharp knife, cut away the peel (the zest and white pith) by slicing from top to bottom, following the contour of the orange. Working over a bowl to collect any juice, release the orange segments by carefully cutting them away from the membrane that separates them. Remove any seeds and put the orange segments in another bowl, separate from the juice. Squeeze the membranes over the juice bowl.

Cut the fennel in quarters lengthwise and then trim away most of the core, leaving just enough intact to keep the layers together. Slice the quarters lengthwise as thinly as you can.

With a paring knife, slice the olive flesh off the pits lengthwise. In a small bowl, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. (The recipe can be prepared up to this point several hours in advance. If working ahead, wrap and refrigerate the fennel; don’t chop the mint until just before serving.)

Drain the sliced onion and toss it with the fennel. Put the fennel and onion in a shallow salad bowl or on a rimmed serving platter. Drizzle with the reserved orange juice. Arrange the orange segments on top and sprinkle with the olives and mint.

Drizzle the dressing evenly over the salad. Add several grinds of black pepper and serve immediately.

Serving Suggestions

Serve this salad with roasted or grilled seafood.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 120; Fat (g): 8; Fat Calories (kcal): 70; Saturated Fat (g): 1; Protein (g): 2; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 6; Carbohydrates (g): 13; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1; Sodium (mg): 240; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I've made this many times, and find it a really nice change from lettuce and spinach salads. The winters are very grey here in Vancouver, and just when it seems like winter will never end, the blood oranges and other citruses are in the stores. This salad always cheers me up, its soft bright colours and zingy flavours bring a bit of Sicilian sun to the heart of Canadian winter. I made it tonight, and used regular Kalamata olives instead of dry-cured. The dry ones are almost too salty for my taste, but their inky black makes a great colour contrast to the salad's soft pastels. I forgot the mint, but scattered some fennel fronds on top and it was none the worse for it. Nice licorice-y basil would be nice too.

This is an unusual salad with a flavor profile that works really well with grilled fish or chicken, or even a roasted chicken in winter. Guests usually find it a delightful surprise. I've found that the ratio of orange to fennel is a little low in the recipe as written, and that it needs a good deal more mint, at least a tablespoon, and a tablespoon of Italian parsley. Also, the dressing brightens considerably with the addition of the orange juice collected when sectioning the oranges and a tablespoon or so of mirin (japanese rice vinegar). Now that I have learned the technique and combination I tend feel free to combine until I like the flavor.

This was a pleasant surprise. All my guests enjoyed this salad and were surprised at the ingredients...especially the fennel. "What's fennel?", the men asked. Because it served 6 and I had 8 guests, I added just a little spring mix which added a little color and helped to fill out the plate. Very good. I also used Kalamatas olives as I could not find "dry cured olives".

This salad is good, but it just lacks a "wow" factor. Individually I love all the elements, and the salad looks very pretty on the plate, but all the flavors together just didn't blend too harmoniously. However, it was a nice change of pace from green salad, and it was fun to use fennel. I will say that the combination of orange and red onion really worked.

This salad is outstanding! I've made it several times.

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