It starts with the colors…vibrant orange, cool greens, liquid gold. Then brilliant, zesty citrus notes hit your nose as a variety of tantalizing flavors and juicy, crunchy textures dance across your tongue. Meals that delight your senses, like this fennel and orange salad, are the ones you remember long after the plates are cleared.
The inspiration for this bold fennel orange salad comes from a cookbook my daughter added to our kitchen library after a trip to Italy some time ago, Verdura: Vegetables Italian Style by Viana La Place. In it, the author gorgeously describes her Californian childhood memories of tangled vines teeming with jewel-toned berries, Italian markets full of riotously colorful garden-fresh vegetables, and the wonders of homemade, wholesome food made with love and bursting with flavor.
The way La Place describes dipping artisan bread in the vinegary juices at the bottom of salad bowls and enjoying ripe, red tomato and oregano sandwiches really hits home – it reminds me of the way my Sicilian family took fresh, high-quality ingredients and turned them into simple but show-stopping comfort foods. Woven into the happy memories of sharing meals together with my family, are the unbeatable flavors and vitality of those high vibrational foods, ones that nourish the body and soul.
Meals from the author’s and my childhood have another thing in common besides that wonderfully fresh produce – olive oil, which is one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet and one of my absolute favorite superfoods. The “healthy” fat” in olive oil helps sustain many vital bodily functions and is an excellent source of antioxidants (vitamin E) and polyphenols, which also provide anti-aging benefits. Extra-virgin olive oils (EVOOs) contain a higher percentage of those polyphenols than lesser quality oils, so you get more of the good stuff in every satisfying bite. And EVOO plays the starring role that ties this delectable orange and fennel salad together!
The juicy oranges in this recipe aren’t just eye candy, they’re provide a healthy dose of antioxidant vitamin C along with natural, sunny sweetness. The absolute best part is how the juice from the oranges mixes with the olive oil to automatically create an incredible citrus salad dressing, no whisking required! If you don’t have oranges on hand, not to worry – simply use a cold-pressed flavored olive oil like this Crushed Blood Orange Olive Oil to dress the salad – its bright citrus taste provides a similar result. (You’ll also love this antioxidant-packed Blood Orange Salad recipe for more of that delectable citrus flavor.)
While summer is undoubtedly my favorite season for the sheer abundance of fresh produce, you can make this bright fennel and orange salad whenever the inspiration hits since most of the ingredients are available year-round. As this salad pairs beautifully with so many main dishes, it’s a versatile recipe to keep in mind whenever you need a dose of bold citrus flavor!
Now, fennel can be tough to find; but if you do manage to get your hands on some, it adds a memorable sweet anise flavor while supporting digestion. Piling the citrusy mix of oranges and fennel on top of power greens, baby spinach or arugula is another smart choice, since you’re dramatically upping your intake of necessary nutrients that support health naturally – antioxidants, fiber, carotenoids, vitamins A, C, E and K, folate (a B vitamin), iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium, to name a few. This salad is basically a nutritional powerhouse that delights your palate as well as your body.
Use organic ingredients whenever possible
Fennel Orange Salad Recipe
- 3 large oranges or tangerines
- 1 medium fennel bulb
- 6 to 10 cups of baby spinach, power greens or arugula
- 3 to 4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Natural Salt Blend
- Juniper Pepper Blend
- 1/4 cup shaved ricotta salata, or crumbled feta or goat cheese (optional)
- 2 tbsp chopped walnuts (optional)
Peel the oranges or tangerines, then slice the segments into bite-sized pieces. Remove tough outer leaves of the fennel bulb, then trim off root end and cut bulb in half. Cut out the core of the fennel bulb, then slice it into thin strips.
Place a generous pile of greens onto a large platter, and top with the sliced fennel and oranges. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, then season with salt and pepper blends and toss gently.
If you want to make a heartier dinner salad, add ricotta salata shavings or a few tablespoons of crumbled feta or goat cheese and walnuts – the extra fat and protein will keep you fuller longer. Serves 4 to 6.
- La Place, V. Verdura – Vegetables Italian Style. (New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1991)
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