Due to my fervent obsession of collecting recipes and new ideas to try, for some time now I’ve been doing what I call ‘tasting nights’, which is when I gather a number of these ideas, then gather up some friends… and put it all together. It means I get to try out more recipes, more often, and I can’t begin to explain how much I enjoy all that’s involved. From choosing the ingredients and recipes, the shopping, the prep work and the cooking…. and all this before anyone passes through my door!
Kinda explains why I love doing what I do~
Side benefits of these evenings are enjoying the company of people I don’t see often enough, and introducing them to new friends – all who bring beverages that are gratefully accepted, and add immeasurably to the fun!
One of the most surprising dishes I’ve ever made at one of these nights, was this salad. Served at an Italian themed dinner party, it was a great success, especially for those who’d never tried raw fennel.
Fennel, served raw, is the preferred way for Italians to eat it, and is a known digestive. I first made this some years ago, and now make it at least once while fennel is in season. I initially didn’t include mushrooms, but have since found that fennel & mushroom make great partners, as well as the fennel & orange. The next logical step was to try them all together.
The flavours are a refreshing combination, all at once savoury, sweet, crisp & cool. The red onion, added as an accent only, has some of the bite taken out of it – by giving it a 10 minute soak in cold water. You can omit this step, if you like raw onion to grab you by the you-know-whats!
This salad is very quick to put together, especially if you use a mandoline, and is really more of an assembly. If you don’t have one (go get one… no, really!) use a heavy, sharp knife and do your best to cut thin, even slices. (That’s exactly what a mandoline does – makes perfectly even pretty slices of all kinds of veg & fruit!)
It’s best if you can make it a bit in advance – even half an hour – for the flavours to get happy together, and some juices to start flowing. Great served on its own, served as part of an antipasto table, or as a side to most anything cooked on the grill.
- 1/4 small red onion (use as much or little as your preference)
- 1/2 bulb fennel (save half for another recipe)
- 2 cremini (or white button) mushrooms
- 1 orange
- 2 - 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, approx.
- Kosher salt, large pinch
- Pinch, freshly ground pepper
- Few small pieces fennel fronds (saved from trimming)
- Get out a pretty serving platter, and you can add the ingredients as you go.
- Slice the onion into julienne/matchstick size pieces and add to a small bowl. Cover with water and let sit about 10 minutes; this will remove some of their bite.
- Cut the stems (saving some fronds) from the fennel, then cut in half - using only the large bulb. Peel/trim any outer bruised sections and cut out the hard core. With a mandoline or very sharp knife, thinly cut the fennel into about 1/16” slices. Scatter them on the serving plate, letting the slices break apart - for easier eating.
- Thinly slice the mushrooms and scatter over the fennel. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over, season with a sprinkle of salt & pepper, and gently combine.
- Remove the rind from the orange and cut into pieces, saving the remaining pulp mass - to squeeze over top. Cutting them into supreme is ideal if you can (see notes below for how to)
- Add the orange segments to the salad, and squeeze the juice from the pulp over top.
- Remove as many/little of the onions from the water as you like (save the remaining for another use) and scatter over top.
- Drizzle over a bit more olive oil, some fennel fronds, and a sprinkle of salt & pepper.
- Just before serving, gently toss the ingredients and add a drizzle of olive oil.
- *How To Supreme an Orange: on a cutting board, cut a slice off the top and bottom of the orange, making it easier/more stable to remove the rind. Placing the orange on one of the cut ends, start removing the rind & pith, following the curve of the orange, with your knife. Then trim any pith that remains. Holding the now fully trimmed orange in your hand, and working over a bowl to catch the 'supreme' pieces & juices, with a paring knife, and carefully following the lines, cut to remove the now skinless sections. Go easy at first, so you don't cut yourself - like anything you do often, it will get easier. Always save the remaining pulp mass, to squeeze out the juice.