For those of you who have attended true Italian family dinners, you know that they are usually epic with multiple courses and dishes. To give you an idea of what it is like, several blogger friends have gotten together to bring you a virtual Italian Dinner via Blog Hop. Our contribution to the meal is a salad or “insalata” in Italian.
There are many different thoughts about when a salad should be served in an Italian meal. The typical answer is that “it depends.” It depends on the region, the family, or the time of year. In Rome, a salad of mixed greens is commonly served as a side dish for grilled or roasted meats or breaded cutlets. In Northern Italy, salads are served as a course following the main dish (or secondi,) while the custom for Italian-Americans is to eat the salad after the appetizers (antipasti), and prior to the first course (primi).
Regardless of when you choose to serve it, this is the perfect salad to accompany any Italian meal. This recipe relies heavily on the quality of all the fresh ingredients, so be sure to have the freshest citrus, fennel, and red onion to ensure the perfect texture and flavors. This super fresh salad takes all of our favorite ingredients and throws them into a vibrant dish that is a treat for your eyes as well as your taste buds! The contrasts of the slightly spicy onion, the crunchy anise, and the tart citrus... nirvana.
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
3 blood oranges, peeled and sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Slice the onion and fennel as thinly as possible (reserving the fennel fronds for garnish). We use a mandolin on the thinnest setting. Place onions and fennel in a salad bowl and toss with the olive oil and vinegar. If white balsamic vinegar is not readily available, feel free to substitute champagne vinegar or even unseasoned rice vinegar. (In our opinion, lemon juice is just a little too tart.)
Peel the oranges and slice the oranges as thinly as possible with a serrated knife. (The mandolin beats up them up too much.) Can't find blood oranges? You can use Cara Cara or navel oranges. Gently toss the oranges with the fennel and onions before plating.
Garnish the salad with the delicate fronds from the fennel and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. The black pepper adds a nice nuance to the dish, so really don't skip it.