For most family get-togethers, my daughter requests this citrus fennel salad with fennel’s crunchy texture, a sweet orange verjuice dressing contrasted with the tarty olives and an aromatic caraway flavour of dill. This raw salad is flavourful and easy to prepare. Fennel, the hero of the dish, is a winter vegetable that I’ve paired with winter citrus, like navel oranges. The base of the dressing is verjuice which is an acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes. If you cannot buy verjuice, simply use white grape juice. I became familiar with verjuice on a visit to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. In her farm kitchen, a cook demonstrated several ways of using verjuice to enhance the flavour of salads, cooked and roasted vegetables. Needless to say, I bought a flask of verjuice along with several of her vegetable and fruit pates.
If you don’t own a mandoline, slice the fennel as thinly as possible with a sharp knife. Slice the orange thinly enough so it retains its shape. You may choose to cut the orange slices in halves or quarters or leave whole. I love the flavour of kalamata olives, yet any variety is suitable. If you don’t like the flavour of dill, you could substitute with fennel fronds.
· Fennel is highly prized for its licorice-like flavour and its health benefits. It’s been used in natural remedies since ancient times. Originally cultivated in the Mediterranean, fennel was popular in Greek and Italian dishes, but now is used around the world.
· Fennel gives relief from anemia, indigestion, flatulence, constipation, colic, diarrhea, respiratory disorders, menstral disorders and helps in eye care. It’s also used in mouth fresheners, toothpastes and desserts.
CITRUS FENNEL SALAD
Makes 1 serving platter for 6 people
For the salad:
1 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced (I used a mandoline)
1 navel orange, thinly sliced
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted
handful of fresh dill, roughly chopped
For the dressing:
200 ml verjuice, or white grape juice
½ orange, juiced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown rice syrup
To make the salad, place shaved fennel, orange slices, kalamata olives and dill in a large bowl. For the dressing, whisk all ingredients in a bowl, and pour at least half of the dressing over the salad ingredients. Toss to combine. To serve, pour salad onto a serving platter, drizzle with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of black pepper, if desired. Serve immediately with a small jug of the extra dressing.