I think I crave salads more in winter than during any other season. Green leaves are my antidote for the shorter days, and sure, they help balance the season’s heavy holiday foods. But I have one debilitating problem that keeps me from making more than I’d like: I inevitably get bored and lazy when it comes to prepared the season’s limited produce selection (I really should get more creative).
You can prepare the main ingredients up to a day in advance. Simply cover and refrigerate the orange segments as well as the fennel and celery (in their ice bath) until you’re ready to drain, assemble, and serve. This recipe calls for blood oranges, but you can use any in-season citrus like grapefruit, Cara Cara or navel oranges.
Shaved fennel salad with blood oranges, celery and olives
Makes 4–6 servings
2 medium-sized fennel
bulbs, preferably with fronds
4 celery stalks, peeled
5 blood oranges, with 3 tbsp of juice reserved
1 cup of pitted mixed olives, halved
2 tsp fennel seeds
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and white pepper to taste
½ cup celery leaves
½ cup fennel fronds or dill
Wash the fennel and peel off and discard any damaged outer layers. Cut into equal parts from the bottom root to the fronds and then shave into thin slices (a Japanese mandolin helps).
Cut the peeled celery stalks into 4-inch pieces and then shave lengthwise into thin slices with a mandolin, or cut on a thin bias with a chef’s knife.
Soak the sliced fennel and celery in an ice water bath for at least an hour in order to keep them crisp. Soaking them will also cause the slices to curl a bit, which lends nice volume to your salad.
Peel the oranges with a sharp medium-sized knife and trim away the skin and pith. Remove the orange segments from the membrane over a bowl to catch the juices, which you’ll reserve for the dressing. (Here’s a handy step-by-step tutorial on how to segment citrus fruit.)
After you’ve removed all the segments, squeeze the leftover membrane into the bowl to extract the juice before discarding the membrane. Cover and set aside both the juice and the orange segments.
Just before serving, drain the fennel and celery well. Let sit on a paper towel for 5 minutes to dry off since too much moisture will prevent the vinaigrette from clinging the vegetables.
Combine the fennel, celery, orange segments and olives with the fennel seeds, salt, white pepper, olive oil, vinegar and 3 tablespoons of the reserved citrus juice. You can save any remaining citrus juice for cooking or cocktails. Toss well.
Taste and adjust salt, pepper and vinegar as needed. Add the celery leaves and fennel fronds or dill, and any other garnishes, if using, into the salad. Serve immediately.