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Fennel, Orange and Olive Salad

Fennel, cooked or raw, is a favorite winter vegetable throughout Italy, but the addition of orange slices makes this a Sicilian dish. The small brown-purple olives named for Gaeta, a picturesque port town not far from Rome, are favorites throughout the country, though any good brine-cured Mediterranean-style olives can be used. This refreshing salad can also be offered at the beginning of the meal, as an antipasto. Serve with a dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Verdicchio.

Ingredients:

  • 2 fennel bulbs 
  • 2 blood oranges or flavorful regular oranges 
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • Sea salt and white pepper, to taste 
  • About 24 Gaeta olives or other Mediterranean-style black olives, pitted 

Directions:

Cut off the stems and feathery leaves from the fennel bulbs and reserve for another use or discard. Cut away and discard any discolored areas of the bulbs. Halve each bulb lengthwise and cut away the tough core. Cut the halves crosswise into very thin slices.

Using a sharp knife, cut a slice off both ends of each orange to reveal the flesh. Place the orange upright on the cutting board and, using the knife, cut downward to remove the peel and pith, following the contour of the fruit. Cut the orange in half through the stem end, then slice each half crosswise as thinly as possible. Eliminate any seeds and visible pith.

Divide the fennel slices among 4 plates. Sprinkle the orange slices over the fennel, again dividing evenly, and drizzle the olive oil evenly over the top. Season with salt and white pepper, and scatter about 6 olives on each plate. Let stand for a few minutes before serving, to give the orange slices time to release some of their juice into the fennel. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).