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Author Notes: This is one of my favorite winter salads because it's light, fresh, and pretty and very simple to make. It's perfect as a starter to a heavy meal or as a light lunch. My inspiration is a recipe from a restaurant in Nice, France, that was written up by Mark Bittman, for the New York Times several years ago. I've added a bed of sauteed fennel and infused flavors into a warm dressing, based on an olive appetizer that I make often for guests. I use Kalamata olives because they are easy to find and are often already pitted, but you can substitute any kind of oil-cured olives. You can make this ahead of time, but be sure to bring the oranges to room temperature before serving. Also warm the sauteed fennel and dressing. - SwoonMySpoon
For the fennel:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small fennel bulb (should yield approximately 1 cup)
- Trim the fennel bulb, by cutting off the stem and any bruised leaves. Cut in half through the root end and remove the core. Using a mandoline, or by hand, slice the fennel very thinly.
- In a medium-size saute pan, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the fennel and saute until translucent (avoid browning it). Remove from heat and set aside.
For the salad:
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoons fennel seed
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half lengthwise
- 2 blood oranges, at room temperature, or other sweet and juicy variety or a combination
- In a small saute pan, add the olive oil, fennel seeds, thyme springs, and olives and warm over low flame for approximately 15 minutes so that all the flavors meld and the fennel seeds and olives soften. Remove from heat and discard the woody part of the thyme sprigs.
- Cut both ends off the oranges to create flat surfaces. Stand each orange on its end and cut off the peel, starting at the top of the orange and slicing down the side while following the curve of the orange. After all the peel is removed, trim off any remaining pith. Cut the orange crosswise in 1/4 inch slices.
- To plate the salad, place half the sauteed fennel on each plate. Arrange the orange slices on top. Spoon the warm fennel dressing and olives over the oranges and serve.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Citrus Recipe