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Twizzlers used to be one of my favorite childhood candies. I loved twirling it around like a lasso and wearing it around my wrists like Wonder Woman’s magic bracelets. So versatile. So fun. When fennel arrived on the food scene, I kept hearing how fennel tasted like licorice. Really? That weird celery-looking-thing I always pass up in the market tastes like Twizzlers?

Obviously, I had no clue. The intensely sweet anise taste and smell of fennel is so distinctive that it really stands in a class all its own. The different flavor combinations and applications of fennel are truly endless.  Roasted with veggies.  Grilled with lamb.  Baked with fish.  Sauteed on its own.  Stuffed with onions and pancetta.  Used as stuffing.  Though fennel is best in late fall and winter, I had a craving for something light and refreshing.  This fennel and orange salad is one of my favorite salads that I happily eat year round.  Perfect for a first course, or a light meal on its own.  So much better than Twizzlers.  So versatile.  So fun.

fennel-and-orange-salad

Fennel and Orange Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts and Cranberries
Tweaked from Gourmet, serves 4

Unlike most salads that need to be served immediately, this one tastes even better by allowing it to sit and marinate in the vinaigrette for awhile.  I added the hazelnuts (I’m obsessed with hazelnuts) for a bit of crunch and protein as well as the cranberries for color and sweetness.  Feel free to adjust to your own likings.

Music Pairing: Simple, The Beta Band, Best of Album

Ingredients

  • 1 navel orange (the sweeter the better)
  • 1 medium fennel bulb
  • 3/4 tbsp white-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp orange zest
  • 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts
  • handful of dried cranberries

Method

Finely grate enough zest from the orange to measure 1/2 tablespoon. Cut peel, including all white pith, from the orange with a paring knife. Then cut segments free from membranes. Watch your fingers!

Cut out and discard core of fennel bulb, then cut bulbs crosswise into very thin slices, as thin as you can get them.

Whisk together vinegar, zest, salt, and pepper in a small bowl until salt is dissolved, then add olive oil slowly in a stream, whisking until combined well.

Toast hazelnuts on medium heat on a dry skillet.

Toss fennel and oranges with vinaigrette in a large bowl until combined well.

Top with toasted hazelnuts and dried cranberries. Garnish with a few fennel fronds.

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