If this dish doesn’t say spring, I don’t know what does. For those of you fennel novices, this may sound like an odd salad. I guess I would have, too, had I not had an adoration for fennel. Fennel, with its crunchy, sweet anise flavor is a distant relative to carrots, parsley, dill, and coriander. You may have seen it in your French or Italian cookbooks and breezed by it, writing it off as something you’ll never try. I hope you’ll give it a chance this time…it’s in season and there’s no reason not to.
Call me crazy, but something about eating fennel just makes me feel healthier. There is some data to back me up, though – fennel touts an impressive nutrition panel (antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber, folate, and potassium). It is thought that fennel tea has a de-bloating property (so feel free to brew some when you’re feeling a little puffy).
The origin of this salad goes back to spring 2007 when I was living in Bologna (Italy). My dear friend Alessandra whipped up a similar salad to this and I thought it was the chicest little Italian salad I’ve ever eaten. Yes, it’s chic. It’s full of that simple Mediterranean flair that we appreciate. With fewer than 5 ingredients, you can welcome Spring to your table and get your taste buds ready for farmers markets. Though Alessandra’s didn’t include avocado, I think it adds a nice dose of healthful fats and is satisfying as a main lunch dish if you add some mozzarella cheese or grilled chicken. The salad is very versatile – you can take her anywhere and set her up with anything.
You can score bonus points if you eat this al fresco – it adds a certain je ne sais quoi.
Fennel, Orange and Avocado Salad (Serves 2)
1 whole fennel bulb, trimmed of outer leaves and sliced thinly*
1 whole orange, peeled and divided into wedges (I used a Cara Cara orange)
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced into wedges
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (optional)
*A mandolin is the ultimate kitchen gadget for slicing fennel thinly. If you don’t have one, use a sharp knife and cut slices as thinly as you can.
Directions: Combine fennel in a bowl and dress with olive oil and balsamic, if you are using it. Next, add the orange wedges and toss gently. Season liberally with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange salad on plates and add slices of avocado, and enjoy!