I’m not going to lie, there was a time not-so-long-ago that I didn’t really get fennel.
Its shape intimidated me and its texture and strong aniseed flavor when raw were kind of turn off.
So I left the cream-colored bulbs alone for a while.
But my curiosity was stoked when Mr. F and I started watching old episodes of Australian Masterchef (you know, to assimilate into this cooking show-loving country.)
Turns out, every chef and judge that came through those kitchen doors freaking loves fennel. It’s the cool, cheffy vegetable that when used, the contestant would get mad props for such “clever cooking” or “understanding flavors.”
Mad. props. yo.
Inspired, I gave fennel another try.
Following my compulsion to roast nearly every vegetable under the sun, I gave it the old…well, roasting treatment. Obviously.
And that’s the story of how I discovered the real-life (non-reality tv) joys of fennel.
Each week when we’re at the farmer’s market, F lobbies for a fennel purchase and I’m always happy to oblige. I kind of love it that he loves this weird-looking vegetable as much as I do. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, somehow.
While my default way to cook fennel will probably always be roasting, I’ve found that pan roasting/caramelizing can be another excellent alternative.
This salad is a great combination of sweetness from the caramelized fennel, tart citrus from the blood oranges, saline bite from the black olives and peppery kick from the arugula. Perfect for your weekly fennel fix!
Caramelized Fennel & Blood Orange Salad
– 1 large fennel bulb, cut into thin slices
– olive oil
– 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
– 1 blood orange, segmented (juice reserved for the dressing)
– 4 large handfuls of arugula
– 1-2 tablespoons sliced black olives
To caramelize fennel, heat oil in a large skillet over a medium high heat. Add fennel and toss to coat in olive oil. Pour in the balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring only once or twice and adding a tablespoon or two of water if the pan looks dry. You want the fennel to get some nice color on it, so stirring it only occasionally is important.
Allow the fennel to cool and arrange your salad with the remaining ingredients. Toss with Blood Orange Vinaigrette (see below).
Blood Orange Vinaigrette
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon blood orange juice (from the pith of the segmented orange)
– 1 teaspoon honey
– salt and pepper
Place all ingredients together in a jar with a lid and shake well to combine. Serve over the salad and store remainder in the fridge for 2-3 days.