Braised Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
It’s another Monday, and it’s time to start thinking about dinner. I’m halfway through this week’s laundry, the cats are sleeping peacefully on a couple of fresh loads, instilling brand new wrinkles into those fluffy towels and tee shirts. What to make…what to make…and I really am trying hard to stick to the whole Meatless Monday goal. Sometimes it is so easy. Other times I just want to eat Spaghetti and Meatballs!! I do totally agree that we have way too much animal protein in our diets. That all the saturated fat is doing a number on our health. That the way animals are raised today, even they are in need of a health and diet makeover. And we are surrounded by so many amazing vegetables and pulses that when prepared lovingly, can absolutely make you forget about meat, even momentarily 🙂
Some Mondays it is so easy to come up with a menu or dish. In the summer it’s a breeze. Oh, there are all those ways of substituting veggies in classic meat dishes, like a veggie lasagna or bolognese. I didn’t feel like another squash or root veggie soup. I thought about making cauliflower mac ‘n cheese the other day, but have you seen the price of cauliflower lately!??? Crazy.
So I looked in the refrigerator. There were two fennel bulbs squished in between a stalk of celery, a bag of micro greens, leftover meatloaf, and various condiments. I love fennel. I usually eat it raw, sliced with a dip, or in salads. Sometimes I’ll roast it with other veggies as a dinner side. But how could I turn these into a main dish that Jim would be satisfied with? The last thing, after all my hard work, that I want him to say is, “Well that was lovely, now what’s for dinner?” So could it be done with fennel as the star?
I thought about it and looked around. There was a blood orange in the basket on the counter. Hmm, love oranges and fennel together. Fennel is also called ‘Anise’ in Europe, and the combo of citrus and anise is a classic. So, the wheels were starting to turn. I could braise the fennel in stock and orange juice, supreme the blood orange, and serve them on a bed of greens. There would have to be some sort of protein. Jim loves feta. Check. I love nuts. Pecans and walnuts are in the freezer Check. Put it all together with some crusty bread, and it could pass as dinner. Who was I fooling, I knew Jim would be ‘snacking’ later on anyway. So might as well make this meal a little lighter to make up for eventual snacking.
It worked. Jim loved it. And even said he was stuffed. That didn’t mean he forwent anything later in the evening. He did snack. But my job was done. A healthy meal, to make up for what might happen as the week progressed. I’m so happy with the way this turned out, that’s it’s definitely worth sharing. In case MM hits you, and you open the fridge in a quandary, and find two fennel bulbs staring back at you.
- 2 large fennel bulbs (or 4 small)
- 1 orange, zested and juiced (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 blood orange (or cara cara), supremed
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
- kosher salt
- cracked pepper
- micro greens
- 1/2 cup pecans. toasted
- 1/2 cup feta, crumbled into medium chunks
- Trim the fennel bulbs tops, reserving some of the fronds for a garnish.
- Cut down through the bulb. Cut again, creating large chunks. Trim off the bottom
- Sprinkle all the chunks with kosher salt.
- In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter. Allow it to cook for a minute or so, until it starts to bubble and turn golden. Place all the fennel chunks, sliced side down into the skillet, in a single layer. Let them cook, do not turn, until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn to brown all sides.
- Add the stock and orange juice. Sprinkle the fennel with the orange zest. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until till tender, about 5-8 minutes, depending on the size of the fennel.
- Take the remaining liquid in the skillet and reduce by increasing the heat to medium-high. When you have about 2-3 tbsp of liquid remaining, remove from the heat. You will be pouring this over the salad.
- In a serving bowl, spread out the desired amount of micro greens. Lay the fennel on top, and then the supremed blood orange.
- Take your toasted pecans and feta cheese and sprinkle on top.
- Drizzle with olive oil and the reduced cooking stock. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the fennel fronds.
- You can obviously use different oranges. When blood oranges are in season though, you don't want to pass them by.
- To supreme an orange: Trim the top and bottom of the orange. Trim off the skin with a sharp knife, trying to remove the pith without taking off too much flesh. Taking a sharp knife, slide it along one side of the membrane of one orange 'slice' Then slice the other side, so that the orange piece is no longer attached to the membranes. Remove. Keep going along the entire orange, until each section has been removed from the membranes. Set aside.
- This makes a lovely side salad with a dinner. With the addition of more nuts and cheese this can totally be a filling meal by just including a crusty baguette and some lovely olive oil.