Are you a fennel fan? I never tried it as a kid, but I started to really get into it in my 30s when living in Italy, where it is more common than it is in the States or the UK. I started to like it in salads, in soups, dipped in bagna cauda, and baked in béchamel sauce. And I would sometimes just snack on slices of it raw, as my kids like to do now. When I was raising my first son in Bologna, I learned from a few mom friends of mine that it’s popular to give a big piece of it to a baby as a teething aid.
If you haven’t given your kids fennel yet, I highly recommend introducing it. It has a mild flavor, a great crunch, and it’s high in fiber and a good source of folate. If your kids have gotten tired of the usual line-up for cut raw veggies (like carrot sticks and cucumber slices), try adding some raw fennel to the mix.
Fennel’s in season right now, and it pairs wonderfully with oranges, which are also coming into season. Fennel and orange is a classic combination in Italy, especially in the South where oranges are grown. I’m in the rainy and cold UK right now, but when I eat this salad, I feel like I’ve gotten a dose of Southern Italian sunshine. And the vitamin C it contains is useful for cold and flu prevention, including Covid-19.
I love how easy this salad is to make and how fresh it tastes, especially with the addition of mint. I like to keep the recipe simple, but there are many other possible additions like thinly sliced red onion, olives, capers, and nuts or seeds such as pistachio, hazelnut, pine nuts, or pumpkin seeds. You can also serve it on a bed of arugula (rocket) or lettuce and mix a vinaigrette for it if you prefer, as opposed to simply drizzling it with olive oil and vinegar.
It’s easy enough to make as part of an everyday lunch or dinner, but beautiful and delicious enough that it makes a great addition to holiday meals. You can get your kids involved in arranging it on a platter for a colorful addition to the table.
Fennel, Orange, and Mint Salad
–1 large bulb of fennel (or 2 small)
–2 oranges, preferably seedless
–2-3 sprigs of fresh mint
–White wine vinegar
- Wash the fennel bulb and trim off the base as well as any tougher top green stalks or fronds. You can use the fronds to garnish the salad if you like. (I also like to save the scraps of the fennel after I cut it and put it in bag I keep in the freezer of veggie scraps that I eventually use to make broth with. It adds a really nice flavor to soups, stews, or risotto.)
- Cut the bulb in half lengthwise and trim out the tough part of the core. Lay each half flat on the cutting board and slice it thinly into crescent-shaped pieces. A mandolin also works great for this to help you slice/shave it more thinly.
- Cut a slice of the orange peel away at the top and bottom of each orange. Set the oranges upright on the cutting board and carefully slice away the rest of the peel in sections. Then turn the peeled oranges on their sides and slice them crossways into thin rounds.
- Arrange the orange slices on a platter to cover it and distribute the fennels slices on top.
- Drizzle with olive oil and white wine vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve!