Monday, May 30, 2011

Fennel, orange and olive salad

If you are not a licorice lover, fennel is not a  vegetable that you take to immediately - it is a taste that grows on you over time. Before I came to New York, the only fennel that I had eaten were fennel seeds which we use in India for cooking as well as a digestif eaten after a big meal. Typically fennel as a vegetable is associated with French and Italian cooking.

Fennel can be eaten in its raw form, thinly sliced as a salad, cut into sixths or eighths and roasted or sauteed as a side or appetizer, in a delicate soup, as well as in stews with fish or chicken. Today we are eating it in a salad. Fennel and citrus is a classic combination. With some red onion for a kick and black olives for tang, it makes a very refreshing salad and also provides a good dose of Vitamin C and fiber.

Fennel, orange and olive salad

One medium sized fennel bulb
2 large navel oranges
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
fennel fronds
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise . Remove the core and trim the fronds and keep aside. Using a sharp knife or a mandoline, thinly slice the fennel halves and keep in a bowl.

2. Using a paring knife, cut off a slice from the top and bottom of the orange to expose the flesh. Set the orange on the cutting board and using the curve of the orange as your guide, peel the rind off the orange including the white pith from top to bottom. Then, working over a bowl to collect the juices, cut between the segments and remove the segments using your paring knife. Squeeze the juice out of the remaining part of the orange once the segments have been removed. Save the juice for the dressing.

3. Soak the thinly sliced red onions in iced water for 10 minutes, to crisp them as well as remove some of the pungency of the onions. Drain and add to the bowl with the fennel.

4. Add the chopped olives to the bowl with the fennel and onions and set aside.

5. For the dressing, add the red wine vinegar to the bowl of saved orange juice with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grindings of fresh black pepper. Whisk in the olive oil and check for seasoning. Pour half the vinaigrette over the fennel, onions and olives and toss well. Arrange the fennel, onion and olive mixture on the serving plate. Lightly mix in the orange segments on the top and pour the remaining half of the dressing over the oranges. Sprinkle with some of saved fennel fronds.

Serves 3

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