This recipe for Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad is a delight. Its fresh flavors and textures come from juicy oranges, crunchy and slightly sweet fennel pieces, and salty olives. It’s a wonderful flavor combo, and makes a great salad to enjoy during the spring season.
If you aren’t familiar with fennel, it tastes a bit like licorice. If you’re not a fan of licorice, don’t pass on fennel. I’m not a licorice lover, but I really enjoy fennel. It grows as a white bulb that has several sections in its center, and feathery, pale green fronds on top. Biting into a piece of fennel is similar to crunching on a piece of celery.
While I was in Rome, I had the pleasure of making a few new friends who happen to operate an impressive tour company called, Overome. Overome provides small, personalized (and even private) tours of Roman sites, as well as one just beyond Rome, in Ostia.
One of my new friends, Nicoletta, and I have kept in touch since initially meeting, and one of our topics of conversation is always food – go figure! Nicoletta has sent me several ideas for recipes, and I have her to thank for Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad.
Nicoletta said her aunt used to make this salad, which she called a Palermitan salad (from the Sicilian city Palermo). For my version, I included salad greens and an orange juice-based dressing to toss with it (as I understand it, greens are optional and the salad is typically dressed with just extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and sometimes anchovies).
According to Nicoletta’s aunt, Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad was a meal typically eaten by farmers while out in the countryside. Since there were no dishes in the fields, they ate the salad served from prickly pear pads (nopales in Spanish) after being cleared of thorns with a knife.
I loved the story behind this dish, and can imagine the farmers enjoying it on a warm day. The combination of flavors is so simple, yet it makes such a delightful salad. I was lucky to bring back some of my aunt’s home grown and pressed olive oil from Italy, and I used it in this recipe. I usually save it for special meals, and this Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad certainly qualifies.
Recipe for Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad
- 1 fennel bulb, bottom and tops removed, and cut into thin pieces
- 2 oranges, sliced into thin rounds, peels cut away
- 4 ounces arugula and spinach greens
- 1/4 cup black Italian olives, pitted and rough chopped
- 3 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 ounces fresh-squeezed orange juice (more or less based on the sweetness of your orange)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- To make the dressing, combine the orange juice, olive oil, salt, and ground black pepper and mix to combine. Taste and adjust as needed.
- Add the fennel, oranges, greens, and olives to a bowl.
- Pour the dressing over the mixture and gently toss to combine.
- Divide and serve on individual plates.