Monday, May 18, 2009

Fennel, Orange, and Nut Salad

This salad is a riff on a nearly perfect salad I had at Union Square Grill in New York. Theirs was a salad of perfectly sliced Cara Cara oranges and thin rounds of fennel, translucent strips of ricotta salata, a smattering of pine nuts, torn mint (not too much!) and a very light vinaigrette. It was so good I practically licked the plate. I did, in fact, take a piece of french bread and sop up every last drip of the vinaigrette as I continued to sip at my white wine.

Yes, it was February, yes there was a massive storm coming, but for me, it was spring time and citrus. It was a food moment.

I haven't done a very good job of re-creating the recipe, partly because I've been scared that it wouldn't live up to the shining, orange coated memory in my head. But this salad has been a very good stab at combining the perfect tastes of citrus and fennel and greens.

If you are a light eater, it might be enough for a meal, or else it is a beautiful accompaniment to almost anything: fish, meat, grains. It is, however, imperative to have near perfect citrus, as lovely chunks of orange scattered across the greens are part of what make this salad so seasonal and divine.

Fennel, Orange & Nut Salad

1 tablespoon butter
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb, outer layer and fronds removed, thinly sliced
2 large oranges, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup toasted nuts (pine nuts or pecans work nicely)
1/2 cup crumbled cheese (I like ricott or ricotta salata)
6 to 8 cups greens

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
fresh ground pepper and salt

In a medium skillet, heat butter. Saute onion in butter for 10 minutes over low hear. Cool. Place fennel, orange slices, nuts, cheese, and onions in a large bowl. Add mixed greens and toss to combine.

Make dressing by whisking together all ingredients until emulsified. Dress lightly and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.
This salad is based on a recipe from one of my "secret weapon cookbooks": Small Plates, Appetizers as Meals, by Marguerite Marceau Henderson.

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