Every winter I look forward to the arrival of blood oranges in our local stores, and this year I found a great tasting variety at Trader Joe’s for a very reasonable price. I immediately bought two bags of these vibrant colored oranges and then began to plan exactly how I would use them. My husband immediately requested a raw fennel salad using blood oranges, and we shared a plate that evening. If you are not familiar with blood oranges, they are a variety of orange that has a crimson, (blood-colored) flesh. The fruit is usually the same size as an average orange, although the ones I recently bought are quite small. The dark flesh color of this unique variety of orange is due to the presence of anthocyanins, a family of antioxidant pigments common to many flowers and fruit, but uncommon to citrus fruits. The dark red flesh develops its color when the fruit develops with low temperatures during the night, which sometimes is reflected on the exterior of the rind as well.
This is such a simple salad, but you can play around with the ingredients depending on your taste. You could add some peppery arugula leaves to make it more of a “salad”. I love the combination of salty olives with the sweet flesh of the oranges, but you can skip the olives if you prefer. Add to that thin slices of crisp, fresh fennel, and you have a winner. To dress this salad, I kept it simple with a light lemon and olive oil vinaigrette. Just before serving, I sprinkled the salad with coarse sea salt and coarsely cracked black pepper. I serve this salad as a starter, or as a light lunch entree.
Fennel can be enjoyed cooked or raw and has a subtle light licorice flavor. It is best to buy a fennel bulb with its feathery tops intact which is the best way to check for freshness. The tops should be bright green and fresh with no signs of wilting. The bulbs should be tight and firm with a creamy green to white color. Do not pick any bulbs that are wrinkled, bruised or those whose layers are not tightly held together. Store fresh fennel in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. When using fennel raw, it is best to keep the slices in acidulated water until needed to prevent discoloration.
Deborah Mele 2015
Fennel Salad With Blood Oranges
- 2 Medium Fennel Bulbs
- 4 to 5 Medium Blood Oranges
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/3 Cup Pitted Kalamata Olives, Halved
- 1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Coarsely Ground Black Pepper
- Cut the fennel bulbs in half, and use a sharp knife to cut out the core. (Reserve the feathery fronds to use as a garnish for the salad.)
- Use a mandoline to slice the fennel thinly and arrange on a platter.
- Peel the oranges, and slice crosswise into thin slices.
- Scatter the olives and chopped fennel fronds over the salad.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil and drizzle over the salad.
- Sprinkle the salad with the sea salt and pepper, then serve.