I know what you’re thinking. Really? A fennel-orange salad? Yawn. Next.
But I’m here to tell you that this one, this salad deserves acknowledgement. It’s the perfect example of how something we treated as ubiquitously blah can be re-invented, re-appropriated and newly appreciated. Like vintage fashion (no, not those high-waisted acid-wash jeans from grade eight, but more like that stunning large-brimmed sun hat your great aunt used to wear, poolside. Or your grandmother’s satin peep-toe slippers. In other words, the elegant retro fashion of a stone-cold fox).
This salad is like a great vintage piece you want to wear over and over again. There’s nothing ground-breaking or earth-shattering about it. Nothing hardcore. But it’s a good salad. A simple, and dare I say, classy salad. And one definitely worth your attention. Most of the fennel-citrus salads I’ve had in my life have been forgettable at best – in large part because either a) the whole thing wilts under the weight of a creamy dressing, or b) the fennel slices looks like they were hacked to pieces with a dull machete, or c) there is a disproportionate amount of fennel, leading you to ask, “Will this salad never END?”.
The recipe below, happily, avoids all these pitfalls. Equal parts crunchy, juicy and sweet, it’s got lemony tones from the sumac dressing, plus a peppery wink from the radish. This salad has got it going on. And if you needed another reason to make it, just look at how gosh-darn pretty it is!
A stone-cold fox of a salad, if you ask me.
Fennel-Citrus Salad with Sumac Dressing – serves 4 as a starter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium fennel bulbs
4 radishes, trimmed
Important note: I fully endorse the use of a mandoline to get paper-thin fennel and radish slices. It might be masochistic of me (8 times out of 10 I will nick the end of my finger on the second-to-last slice), but I continue to use it for recipes like this, as it yields the best results.
Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and sumac, and orange zest and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cut off and discard the stalks from the fennel bulbs, reserving some of the fronds for garnish. Halve the fennel bulbs lengthwise and cut out and discard the cores. Thinly slice the fennel bulbs using a mandoline (or sharp knife). Transfer to a large serving platter. Thinly slice the radishes using a mandoline (or sharp knife). Add to the fennel. Peel and cut the orange into slices, arrange on top of the fennel and radish (for an extra pretty salad, trim the orange into suprêmes. Nifty video here).
Whisk the dressing and drizzle it over the salad. Toss gently to coat.