It’s January in Ontario. Although the weather has been unusually mild this winter and we’ve had some brilliantly sunny days, today is dreary and there’s a scant covering of snow that doesn’t camoflauge how desolate my gardens look without their usual profusion of perennials and herbs. I’m on vacation now, taking some time to relax and work around the house. In my daydreams, though, I’m vacationing at the lake on a hot summer day.
The water is blue and gentle waves lap at the shoreline. The breeze off the water carries the scent and sounds of the beach. I’m sitting in a lounge chair, reading under the shade of an umbrella while a kite flies nearby. I can hear it fluttering, and when I look up it reminds me of a brightly coloured, exotic bird. Life is good.
After a while, we’re hungry for lunch so I walk up the hill to the cottage, the sandy path hot against my feet. In the kitchen I assemble a tray with plates of the fennel and orange salad I prepared after breakfast, a few rounds of whole wheat pita bread roughly torn and a bowl of fresh fruit for dessert. Back on the beach we set out our lunch on the red wooden tables beside our chairs, and enjoy this simple, refreshing meal while talking about … well, what we’ll make for dinner, of course.
Fennel and Orange Salad
I first had this at a friend’s home, and had to get the recipe. This salad can be a wonderfully complementary side dish for a meal featuring pork, but can also stand as the feature attraction at lunch on a hot summer day. The crunchy fennel with its mild liquorice flavour is so refreshing, and even more so when accompanied by oranges.
- 2 fennel bulbs, very thinly sliced (or shaved on a mandoline) – keep some of the fronds to garnish
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 oranges, peeled and segmented
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Put all ingredients into a large bowl, and gently mix. Plate and garnish with an extra grinding of pepper and the reserved fennel fronds. Note – my friend’s recipe also called for 1/2 cup of sliced green olives. I don’t include those because I think their rich saltiness detracts from the freshness of the salad, but that’s up to you!
If any of your guests are new to fennel, I think they’ll be delighted from the first bite! As for me, I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed this little interlude at the beach, my favourite place, if only in my imaginings.