I have a thing for bright, vibrant colors. I have a closet full of colorful spring dresses, most of which I accumulated while in Chicago of all places (which is entirely impractical for Chicago weather; should be investing in heavy winter sweaters to keep me warm, but that just seems so dull in comparison). Time after time, my eyes are immediately lured in the direction of a colorful garment; especially a cute little Diane Von Ferstenberg wrap dress (on sale, of course).
That being said, a colorful plate of food tends to have the same alluring effect. Blood oranges from the outside look rather like your typical naval orange, but when you cut in, you are presented with beautiful shades of orange, red, and crimson…a nice pop of color to brighten up any dreary winter day. Blood oranges are wonderful on their own, as a refreshing glass of freshly squeezed juice, a frozen dessert (such as sorbet or granita, next on my to-do list), or a great addition to liven up a simple salad.
This particular salad is paired with fennel — orange and fennel — a classic combination. You can thinly shave the fennel and add it to the salad raw, but I prefer to roast the fennel in the oven until tender and a bit browned and caramelized, bringing out it’s inherent sweet anise flavors. I’ve also made a simple dressing with toasted and ground fennel seeds, and used the fennel fronds as garnish, utilizing fennel three ways. Makes for a nice light, refreshing salad with perhaps a blood orange mimosa (blood orange juice + your favorite bubbly).
Roasted fresh fennel (left); Toasted and crushed fennel seed (right)…
Blood Orange and Roasted Fennel Salad
2 medium fennel bulbs, few fronds reserved for garnish
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (half roasted, half raw)
2 blood oranges
handful of baby greens such as arugula, watercress, pea shoots
toasted fennel vinaigrette (see below)
salt and pepper to taste
Top with toasted nuts (such as almonds) or toasty bread crumbs for a little crunch
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Trimming the fennel: If the fennel came with the stalks attached, chop them off, reserving a few of the fronds for garnish. Standing the fennel on its base, cut each bulb in half lengthwise. Place the cut-side down and slice into 1/4-inch slices. Slice half of the onion into 1/4-inch slices. In a large bowl toss the sliced fennel and onion with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast the fennel and onion until browned along the edges, about 40 to 45 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, peel and remove the pith from the blood oranges. Be sure to remove all of the pith otherwise it will be bitter. Section the oranges.
Place a handful of greens on a plate. Layer on the roasted fennel and onions, top with blood orange segments, a few raw onion slices (sliced very thin, rinsed under cold water, and patted dry). Garnish with a few reserved fennel fronds. Drizzle desired amount of vinaigrette over the salad.
Toasted Fennel Seed Vinaigrette
2 teaspoons whole fennel seed
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon (white) balsamic vinegar
squeeze of blood orange juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Toast the fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until they release their aroma and darken slightly. Grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, 2 teaspoons ground fennel, squeeze of blood orange in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.