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This is an ode to fennel, one of the most beautiful winter vegetables and, indeed, the most elegant. Fennel id the vegetable of this nostalgic time of mist hanging over the fields and veiling the sun, coating all the hair-thin fronds in pearly droplets and frosting the grass at 6 AM. Fennel is the offspring of this fall/winter mood, that finally seems to have stricken Italy after one of the warmest, driest Octobers since my birth.
I had this salad for the first time in the most interesting context: I was at a dinner organized in a theater, and they put tables instead of seats, and we ate as a mini-show went on to accompany each course. The show was absolutely beautiful (and so was the setting), but this salad is one of the things that hit me the most.
Fennel, orange and good extra virgin olive oil is a very Italian combo, and what better time to make this salad, now that new, freshly pressed, emerald green olive oil is out?
I added lemon thyme and szechuan pepper for a fancy kick, but you can skip both and use regular pepper instead. Olives are often added to this salad, and, if you’re not vegan, some pecorino shavings round this up beautifully.
To make it a full meal, add something like quinoa or any other form of protein that fits your diet – this salad goes well with pretty much anything (especially fatty fish if you’re not plant based).
Do you like fennel? What is your favorite recipe with it?
- 2 medium oranges (or, even better, blood oranges)
- 3 medium fennel bulbs, thinly shaved
- ¼ cup toasted almonds or other nuts
- Fruity extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons orange juice or lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- Two short sprigs lemon thyme
- Pinch Szechuan or regular pepper
- Extras: your favorite olives, Pecorino shavings
- Peel the oranges with a paring knife so you can get rid of the white part as well. Cut them lenghtwise into thin wedges, or cut the oranges crosswise as to show the sections of the oranges, which look beautiful.
- Toss the shaved fennel and sliced oranges in a bowl with plenty of extra virgin olive oil, the lemon or orange juice, torn leaves from the lemon thyme, salt to taste and pepper.
- Serve the salad in individual bowls and sprinkle on top the toasted almonds or nuts, and olives and pecorino if using.