A classic winter salad here in Sicily, when fennel and oranges are at their best. It’s even better when made with blood oranges, but for those I’ll have to wait until later in the season…
Fennel and orange is the basic version, although I like to add capers and red onion (in this case, I used the sweet, mild onions from Tropea, across the Straits in Calabria) and sometimes small black olives, not to mention chilli flakes. Try some of these versions too. But whatever you do, don’t stint on the black pepper – its earthy heat is a wonderful foil to the sweet, juicy oranges.
I’ve tried this on its own or to accompany various types of meat and fish, but it really gives of its best when paired with thick Sicilian sausages. The fennel echoes the fennel seeds traditionally used in sausages here, and the refreshing coolness of the salad, boosted by a hint of acidity from the oranges, cuts through the sausage fat to cleanse the palate. Fennel is also great for the digestion, which is just what you might be needing after a few Sicilian bangers!
Serves 4 as a side dish
- 1 large bulb of fennel
- 2 oranges
- ½ a small red onion
- 1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
1. Peel one of the oranges. Slice the other orange in half; peel one half and juice the other.
2. Slice the peeled oranges thinly and place in a shallow serving dish. Pour over the juice
3. Cut the fennel bulb vertically in quarters, and then slice vertically, from the top down to the root, as finely as you can.
4. Finely slice the onion, lengthways.
5. Mix the fennel and onion with the oranges. Add the capers.
6. Season with a good pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper.
7. Add the olive oil and mix well. Leave for a couple of hours to marinate. The fennel and onion will soften and “cook” in the oil and orange juice, as well as absorb the flavours. The thinner you’ve sliced it, the better the end result will be.
8. Check seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary, and serve.
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