Sometimes, you don’t realize that you have glamorous vegetables in your kitchen. I always think of fennel salad as fairly glamorous and thus a touch out of reach for the everyday home cook. I’m not quite sure where this crazy notion originated.
Sure, fennel is a bit unfamiliar to the everyday cook. It’s not used as regularly as say broccoli or spinach. It has a slightly anise flavor that turns many who encounter it off, like my husband. It’s also this odd bulbous shape that doesn’t lend itself well to easy preparation. Either cut it up for roasting, or what else? Break out a mandolin for fine shavings? Who has a mandolin?
Well, of course, I do. But this bulb never touched its fine blades. I was inspired by a Barefoot Contessa episode, one in which she uses the slicing blade of her food processor to prepare the fennel. It’s such a natural thought, but one that never crossed my mind. (I suppose I’m a little slow…)
Confessions aside, I sliced me up some fennel (two bulbs, to be exact) and tossed the results with orange slices (peeled, sliced across the grain to create pinwheels) and fresh arugula. All of these items came from our local CSA this past week. The oranges were of course shipped in from Florida and thus not local, but they were organic and that’s the best you can ask for during these cold New England winters.
I piled all these farm finds on a plate and tossed in the juice from 1/2 a lemon, some generous pours of my favorite extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. A quick mix blended the glorious orange sweetness with the peppery arugula and the licorice-scented fennel. The lemon juice made it all sparkle. A quick chop of the fennel fronds, a glorious herb in and of itself, on top provided the perfect final touch, like diamond earrings to a gorgeous ball gown.
I towered a generous serving in a bowl for myself, and a slightly smaller serving for my husband. He went back for seconds. This from the man who spit up the roasted fennel I had prepared for him earlier in the season. He loved this salad. I consider my recipe successful when my husband, who hates all forms of vegetables, goes back for seconds.
Late Winter / early Spring is the season for big, full bulbs of fennel and fresh oranges (from the South). Do search them both out and whip up this glamorous salad. So glamorous, in fact, I’ll be eating leftovers while watching the Oscars tonight. Now it’s just deciding what couture goes with fennel… Anyone?