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Fennel Salad

Outside my Back Door

Spring is here!  It officially arrived this past week.  So far, though, it seems to be keeping a low profile. Just going out the back door to my small garden I still put on my boots, rather than sandals, and pull on my coat.

Outside, after gathering a few leafy greens, I look up for a patch of blue among the clouds. I pull my coat around myself as I search without success and yet I find evidence that spring is irrepressible. Despite the clouds and the discouraging wind and chill flowers are bursting onto the branches outside my garden gate and daffodils are displaying their splendid blooms in time for Easter.

The Flavor of Spring

This salad is perfect for the season. Without quite letting go of the tastes and textures of months past, it pushes them forward into a dish that is dressed for a garden party or Easter lunch.  It harbors the cool crunch of winter in fennel’s celery-like texture, but embellishes it with playful notes of licorice and a fresh soft touch of spring green in its gentle fronds. 

A few Cuties add color.  They bring the flavor of winter sunbursts forward in their tender sections and bright citrus flavor without the bitterness of larger, pithier oranges.  I slice them in half cross-wise to release a little juice into the salad.

Dried cranberries also remind me of winter holidays and what spring leaves firmly in its wake while adding deep highlights of color and tangy flavor to an emerging spring palette.

Just drizzle these few ingredients with the elements of a simple dressing and toss. The flavor of spring is here!

Fennel Salad
Slightly adapted from Robin Miller's recipe at the Food Network

1 large bulb of fennel
4 or 5 Cuties, or other small seedless oranges
2 Tablespoons dried cranberries
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
mixed spring salad greens, if desired

Trim away brown spots from the fennel bulb. Remove core and stalks.  Chop a Tablespoon or two of the fine feathery leaves and set aside along with several feathery sprigs for garnish.  

Thinly slice the fennel bulb using a knife or mandolin.  Place in a medium salad bowl.

Peel the Cuties, or other small oranges.  Cut them in half crosswise and separate the sections.  Toss with the sliced fennel.

Drizzle the fennel and oranges with the red wine vinegar and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss until well mixed.

Scatter dried cranberries on top of the salad.

Serve alone or on a bed of mixed spring salad greens, if desired.

Recipe Notes:  This salad can be dressed early and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Use a different vinegar if you like.  I have used raspberry vinegar with good results.  Champagne vinegar or a white balsamic vinegar might be nice too. 

I think I might also add some toasted sliced almonds or other nuts next time.

Pomegranate arils would be an interesting alternative to the dried cranberries adding their own brand of wintery crunch and distinct flavor.


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