Salads don’t need to be based on lettuces and other leafy greens, as this Fennel and Orange Salad proves. With the crunch and pleasing anise flavour of fennel complemented by highlights of orange, onion, and parsley, this one is a winner at any time of year. (This is an update of a post I wrote in January 2012 when I was dreaming of the beach. I’m still dreaming of the beach. Particularly in May 2020, when we’re experiencing a polar vortex and it’s snowing now.)
Dreaming of Beach Days
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.
Time for Fennel and Orange Salad
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.
If you’re serving this to anyone who’s new to fennel, I think they’ll be delighted with its mild anise flavour from the first bite. The tartly sweet orange, bite of onion, and herbaceous parsley all add brightness and complexity to this classic salad.
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.
Let’s Make 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
- 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
Very thinly slice the fennel bulbs or shave them on a mandoline. Keep some of the fronds for a garnish.
Put all ingredients into a large bowl, and gently mix. Plate and garnish with an extra grinding of pepper and the reserved fennel fronds.
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 it’s up to you!
Other Crunchy Salads
Salads that aren’t based on leafy greens are great choices any time of year, but particularly when our gardens aren’t producing greens yet. Some of my favourites include: Brussels Sprout Salad, Celery Salad and Ginger-Scented Celery, Fennel & Golden Beet Salad.
First published 2012 01 26
Updated 2020 05 09