When the fennel showed up in my CSA share last week, I knew what salad number three was going to be in my five course salad night. I also knew I wanted citrus in it as a change of pace, even though the flavour isn’t exactly in season. But because of the season, I wasn’t convinced I was going to get the sugar I wanted from the oranges to vault the salad onto the palette, so after some thought I decided on dried cranberries and particularly ‘sweetened’ berries. It worked perfectly.
I also wasn’t convinced that the raw fennel was going to work, no matter how long I let it marinate in the vinaigrette that would be created. I ponderered briefly the notion of blanching the bulbs but recalling my success of grilling them last month for another creation, I thought, yes, that I could soften them just enough in the process and also use the method to caramelize the sugars of the bulb and really bring out the fennel flavour. I did the same with the onions for the same reason. I don’t feel comfortable patting myself on the back, but I have to say, I nailed it and it all worked as expected to create a full-tasting, complex, layered salad that just got better and better the longer it marinated in the vinaigrette.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: N/A
Total time: 20 minutes
Grilled Fennel and Orange Salad
- 2 medium sized fennel bulbs
→ don’t throw away green tops/fronds
- 1/2 medium red onion, sliced into 1cm thick rounds
- Olive oil
- 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
- 1½ large navel orange
→ reserve remaining half for vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons fennel greens
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
(use the 1/2 naval orange reserved from above)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3/4 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon agave syrup
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat grill to 350ºF. Use a paper towel and some olive oil to clean and oil the grates.
- Meanwhile, top the fennel bulbs but keep the heal on the bulbs … this will make sure it doesn’t fall apart during the grilling. Slice the fennel bulbs in half lengthwise (from top to heal). Peel the onion and slice it into rounds ½” (1 cm) thick. Lightly oil the fennel and onions.
- Place the fennel bulbs and onions on grill and lightly grill them for 4-5 minutes per side.
The goal isn’t to ‘cook’ them but simply to soften them and to bring out the sugars in each. Remove and let cool on a plate.
- Meanwhile, top and tail one orange and cut the other in half … and reserve second half of orange for juicing. Using a sharp knife, cut the outside skin and membrane from the orange leaving just the orange fruit.
Segment out the oranges from both the one orange and the other half and toss into a non-reactive bowl. Add a half cup of cranberries to the oranges and set aside.
- Now that the fennel and onions are cool, remove the tough heal and core of the fennel bulbs and slice them into ¼” (½cm) slices and add them to the bowl with oranges.
You may also want to slice the onions thinner if you want (and are able) and add them to the salad as well.
- Remove the delicate fronds from the fennel tops you reserved and chop them finely. Add 2 tablespoons of tops to the salad. Keep a few fronds intact for garnish.
- Make the vinaigrette now by juicing the reserved half of the orange into a measuring cup. You should produce about a 1/3 cup of juice. Add to this 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and about 3/4 tablespoon of cider vinegar (just enough to bring some ‘acid’ to the vinaigrette). Add in the agave syrup, mix well, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add vinaigrette to the salad. Toss well and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours. Remove from fridge 1/2 hour before serving.
- Garnish and serve with a drizzle of the vinaigrette.