We’re deep in the season that makes putting together a salad hard. If you love salad like me, the dark days of winter can be depressing. No plump, juicy tomatoes to decorate your plate. The lack of peaches, basil, fresh little gem lettuces and summer squashes could get any salad lover down. But there are still some ingredients to add texture and flavor to your plate. That’s why we’re featuring this crunchy fennel citrus salad recipe.
A winter citrus salad
There are many citrus available in late winter and early spring to bring vibrant color and acidity to a salad. Although I use tangerine in this recipe, you can use whatever type of fresh orange, tangerine or satsuma available to you. Most citrus are at their ripest and sweetest in late winter, so you probably have the most variety just when all the fall fruits have disappeared. This fennel salad recipe welcomes experimentation.
This salad makes a great background for the scarlet color of blood orange. Or of you like sweetness, try it with navel oranges. But I prefer this fennel salad made with the sweet tart tang of California tangerines like Ojai pixies.
What is fennel?
Fennel is a vegetable popular in Mediterranean cuisines but it isn’t as well known elsewhere. And that’s a pity because not only does fennel have a great, crunchy texture and a light, anise-like texture, it’s remarkable nutritious. It is a source of vitamin C, fiber, iron and potassium. And it is also historically considered an aphrodisiac.
The type of fennel you typically find sold at farmers markets and in the grocery store is called Florence fennel. It has feathery tips and almost celery-like stalks. Although you might not guess it, fennel is a member of the parsley family. It’s easy to cook with although it isn’t the easiest vegetable to cut. To slice it for this fennel orange salad, I recommend using a mandolin. (This slicer is also handy for cutting the onions.)Buy my favorite mandolin
In this shaved fennel salad recipe, I combine the anise-flavored vegetable with baby arugula to make a light and healthy blend of greens. Incidentally, arugula is also considered aphrodisiac.
Tips for making this fennel citrus salad recipe
This fennel orange salad recipe is somewhat free-form. As I mentioned above, you can choose whatever citrus looks best at the store. But beyond that, you can take the dressing in a variety of different directions.
For me, the right dressing for this citrus salad is just a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. I like the simplicity of this dressing because I enjoy the sensuality of the simple fruit and vegetable ingredients, which crunch and squish with notes of sweetness and tart, pepper and anise as they dance across the tongue. But you might prefer a dressing that brings more of a traditional salad flavor. You can try making a fresh tangerine or orange vinaigrette or even a more traditional vinaigrette with Dijon and red wine vinegar. If you enjoy the flavor, then it definitely works!
How to turn this fennel salad into a full meal
Although this salad makes a lovely side dish or a vibrant vegan salad option, I’ve played around with adding light proteins. My favorite way to serve it, other than as a simple, vegetarian salad, is to add poached or seared shrimp along with some salmon roe. As you can see, I enjoy making it just a little bit differently every time. After all, who doesn’t love surprises?
Fennel and Citrus Salad with Arugula and Sweet Onion
- 1 small fennel bulb
- 1 medium sweet onion
- 2 tangerines or 1 orange
- 2 c baby arugula washed and dried
- salt & pepper to taste
- good quality olive oil or your favorite dressing
- Slice the fennel and onion as thinly as possible, preferably using a mandolin or food processor.
- Cut off the very top and bottom of each tangerine. Then peel the fruit with your knife. Next—and this is the tricky part—carefully slice the fruit between the membrane and the flesh. Repeat with all of the segments of both tangerines.
- Toss the fennel, onion, tangerine and arugula in a medium mixing bowl. And top with salt, pepper and your favorite dressing to taste. (A splash of premium olive oil recommended.)
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