Happy New Year, friends! I’m hoping I can still say that given that we are still in January, albeit the last day. Also: can someone please tell me where January went? I’ve seen so many people complaining on social media about how long this month has felt, but for me it’s been quite the opposite. I used to dread January because it always felt like it dragged on forever, but these past couple of years, I have welcomed the quiet and rest after a busy holiday season. Changing my mindset by looking forward to a re-set in January has made a big difference in how I think about this month. Once the calendar turns to the new year, I prioritize more rest, organize areas of my home that need a refreshing, and get back to my regular eating habits. I never feel guilty about the extra indulgence during the holidays–after all, the holidays only happen once a year and I don’t deny myself the enjoyment of my favorite meals and treats. But come January, it feels really good for me to return to my normal eating routine, which means eating lots of fruits and vegetables. I grew up eating a mostly Mediterranean diet so eating nutritiously and seasonally has always been the norm for me. Winter is citrus season and I take full advantage of it while it lasts by making this refreshing winter citrus and fennel salad.
A few weeks ago, my friend Elise kindly sent me a bottle of Cobram Estate extra-virgin olive oil (thanks, Elise!) and I knew that this flavorful olive oil would be perfect to drizzle over my winter citrus and fennel salad. I’m pretty sure olive oil runs through my veins, so I was thrilled to try this new-to-me brand and I was incredibly impressed with the flavor–buttery, rich, and fruity–perfect for pouring over fresh fruits and vegetables. I especially love that it is unrefined which means the oil has not been chemically treated in any way–it’s simply the juice pressed out from very good olives. Unrefined olive oil also has a “cloudy” appearance and sometimes you will see sediment settled at the bottom of the bottle–two other characteristics of olive oil that has not been treated chemically.
Whenever I make this salad, I like to use a mix of citrus for color variation and visual interest. Blood oranges are my favorite so they always feature in this salad. Fortunately, they are becoming much easier to find in most grocery stores (I got mine at Trader Joe’s). I love their crimson color and tart flavor. I also used Satsuma oranges for their balanced sweet-tart flavor and bright orange flesh. You can use any kind of citrus fruit you like for this salad–just be sure it’s juicy because the citrus juice will mingle with the olive oil and make the dressing for the salad. I peel my oranges using a sharp paring knife, cutting down the curve of the fruit so I can remove the bitter pith. Then I slice the oranges into rounds which makes for a pretty presentation. After trimming the fennel bulb, I slice it on a mandolin to get paper-thin slices. Fennel can be fibrous when eaten raw, so slicing it thinly makes it more enjoyable to eat. Its sweet, delicate, licorice-like flavor pairs well with the tartness of the oranges. Bitter Beldi olives (my absolute favorite) add great color and flavor contrast. You could also use Kalamata olives. Garnish the salad with a few fennel fronds for an attractive finishing touch.
Winter citrus and fennel salad is one of these “no recipe” recipes. That is, there are no set quantities for the ingredients. You simply use your judgement based on the sizes of the citrus fruits and fennel, and how many people you are serving. From there, you can make as much or as little as you like. This is a great salad to make either for one serving or to feed a crowd. This salad is also a wonderful example of how many Italian recipes are inherently gluten-free and vegan. I like to make this salad about half an hour before I plan to serve it so that the citrus juices and olive oil mingle to form a light dressing. I also add a little bit of salt to flavor the salad and help draw out the juices from the citrus fruit. Winter citrus and fennel salad makes a flavorful side dish to roasted or grilled meats and also is perfect for a light, refreshing lunch. Buon appetito!Print
- Your choice of citrus fruits (no more than 3 types)
- Blood oranges
- Satsuma oranges
- Pink grapefruit
- Fennel bulb, cleaned and trimmed
- Beldi or Kalamata olives (optional)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fennel fronds, for garnishing
- Use a sharp paring knife to cut away the peel and pith of the citrus fruits. Cut the citrus fruits into rounds and arrange them on a platter.
- Using a mandoline, slice the fennel bulb into paper-thin slices and arrange them on the platter with the citrus rounds. Tuck some fennel under the citrus rounds and scatter some fennel slices on top for visual interest.
- Scatter some olives (if using) onto the salad.
- If there is any citrus juice remaining on the cutting board, pour it onto the salad.
- Drizzle the salad generously with olive oil and sprinkle on a modest amount of salt (the amount will depend on how much salad you make).
- Garnish the salad with the fennel fronds.
- Allow the salad to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.