Fennel is one of those vegetables that I never even knew existed until I travelled to France. I am pretty sure I'd seen it in the store at least once, because it is usually parked near the radishes and salad greens in the produce aisle; but probably not more than a couple of times because the fresh vegetable selection at my grocery store was very limited. Since my first taste of the crunchy, bright bulb it has been one of my favorite vegetables. When fresh, fennel has a slightly licorice flavor, which adds instant zing to a salad. Fennel mellows when cooked and is spectacular roasted or melted into a hearty sauce.
I use fennel in salads a lot, but this is one of my favorites, because the fennel is the star. The blood oranges add sweetness and tang and the cucumber smoothes out all the flavors. The herbs and sesame vinaigrette are nods to fennel's Mediterranean heritage. Everyone in my family just loves this salad, even my kids. Serve as a side to fish or chicken, or as a light lunch stuffed in a pita.
For the vinaigrette:
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon mild oil, like grapeseed or safflower
pinch of fine kosher salt
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until slightly emulsified. Set aside.
For the salad:
2 fennel bulbs, fronds removed and sliced thin
1 large cucumbers, sliced (you may peel if you like)
2 green onions/scallions, green and white parts, chopped
2-3 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
4 sprigs of fresh dill, finely chopped
4 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
2 blood oranges, peeled and sliced into rounds
All of the vinaigrette
1. In a large salad bowl gently toss together the fennel, cucumber, scallions, mint, dill, and cilantro. Place the blood oranges on top of the salad and toss once, gently.
2. Pour the vinaigrette evenly over the salad. Serve immediately or within 24 hours.