This is the sort of salad you can only make in the winter months, and I relish fresh simple salads that can be made from things available this time of the year because frankly, in Vancouver, it’s slim pickings. But what we lack in veg right now we make up for in proxy to California, and thus California citrus. You can use any citrus in this salad, but the blood oranges and the grapefruits just make it so pretty, and if you can find a meyer lemon for the dressing, well, you’re pretty well in business.
This is one of those recipes that almost seems silly to put up here. I’ve made it so many times, and there are so few ingredients, it just seems too simple.
But when I made it for a friend of mine a while back she immediately begged me for the recipe, and wouldn’t take a “Oh, you know just chop up some fennel and add in some citrus” for a recipe.
I do that a lot. She gets mad at me.
It is though, the easiest salad to make. I grew up on this salad, sometimes it was just fennel dressed with lemon and olive oil, sometimes my mom threw in some citrus segments if she was feeling fancy. But it was a standard salad in our house for years, and it is always one of my favourites. The only thing I’ve changed is the addition of an avocado, which was totally a fluke, I just had one that was on it’s last legs so I chopped it up and tossed it in, but it turns this salad from a bright side dish, into a perfect light lunch. And when you eat as much sugar as I do, a perfect light lunch salad is just about the best thing.
Fennel, Citrus, and Avocado Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing
Serves as 4 side salads.
1 Head Fennel
2 blood oranges
1 Meyer Lemon if possible, otherwise a regular lemon is fine
4 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
In a medium bowl, zest and juice the meyer lemon. Add in the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Test it to see if it tastes right adding more lemon, or salt if nescessary.
Into the same bowl thinly slice the head of fennel as thin as you can, a mandolin makes quick work of this.
Cut the avocado in half, peel it and cut it into thin strips, Add that to the fennel and toss with the dressing.
Take the blood oranges and grapefuit and with a sharp knife cut the tops and bottoms off, and then cut away the skin leaving not traces of white pith behind.
Now carefully cut between each membrane, so that you cut out the segments of fruit without any bits of membrane. Put them into the bowl as well.
Toss the salad well and serve.
Summer salads are an easy seduction. The bright colours, the delicate greens, the warmth of fruit warming in the sun, it’s a simple formula, like the blonde with the big laugh on TV, there is something comforting about getting it all upfront. There isn’t much hidden in a summer salad.
Winter salads are the opposite. Either there is nothing at all to love, you know the ones, with the flavourless lettuce, the watery cucumber and the grainy tomato, or you take some time to produce complicated mix of things that use up the limited things that grow in January.
This salad falls firmly into the latter category, it’s a perfect balance of bitter lettuce, salty olives, and tart oranges all tossed in a sweet dressing that is brightened by fresh mint.
I started thinking about radiccio at home, but when I got to my local market and saw the blood oranges I couldn’t resist adding them to the mix. It wasn’t until I saw the mint perched close to the check-out that I realized that this salad was teatering somewhere between Italian and Moroccan. Regardless of it’s origins, this salad and a thick cut of toast is the answer to a cold crisp day.
Blood Orange and Raddicio Salad with Dried Olives and Mint Dressing
1 Head Radiccio
5 Blood Oranges (regular oranges will do if you can’t find their red cousins)
1/3 cup Dried Black Olives
1 tbsp Finely chopped Mint
1tbsp Finely chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Segment the oranges: Cut off their tops and bottoms. With the orange “standing up” cut off the peel and pith so that no white from the peel remains. Over a medium bowl pick up the orange and using a paring knife cut in between the membranes to release each slice of orange. When your finished removing the slices squeeze all the remaining juice from the core into the bowl. Repeat with the rest of the oranges.
Strain the orange slices into a small pot, and reduce that liquid until it is syrupy, and only about a tablespoon remains.
Mix this mixture with the lemon juice and whisk in the oil. Add a pinch of salt and adjust the seasoning as you wish. Mix in the parsley and mint.
Wash the radiccio and tear into a big pieces. Mix them with the orange segments.
Tear the olives apart by pressing your thumb into the middle until the olive splits in half. Remove the pit and tear them fully in half. Continue with the rest of them and add that to the bowl with the orange and radiccio.
Toss with the dressing and serve immediately!