Insalata di Finocchio con Arancia Rossa di Sicilia
Blood oranges are in season at this time of the year and over the last 2-3 years or so, we see a lot of those of the “Moro” variety cultivated by Sunkist imported from the US. Stroke of luck has it that I’d managed to get some Sicilian oranges imported directly from Italy and my oh my, the difference in flavours are so apparent. The citrusy notes from the Sicilian oranges are so much more intense, refreshing and memorable. The US Moro ones really pale in comparison. Each fruit is just slightly less than a dollar each, a small premium to pay for an explosion of palate experience. The best way to enjoy them is of course fresh as they are, or in my case, Insalata di Finocchio con Arancia Rossa di Sicilia, using these Sicilian oranges and fennel , a simple salad lunch the truly Sicilian way.
Fennel and orange salad is classic Italian fanfare. Using very very simple ingredients, the objective is really to tap into the natural flavours of the natural produce, drawing them out and accentuating them with a little seasoning of salt, olive oil and lemon juice. Fennel is an interesting vegetable to begin with, with slightly more subdued flavours compared to say celery, but yet losing none of that wonderful crunch. Very thinly juilenned, they make a perfect combination with wedges of Sicilian oranges, an old Italian duo which still remains immensely popular even today.
Well, maintaining strictly to the traditions I most certainly did not. “Bastardised” the Sicilian fare by extending it geographically to include two other favorite italian foods of mine, Prosciutto di Parma (parma ham) as well as aged Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena . Simple salad dressing using the balsamic vinegar together with extra virgin olive oil, dash of pepper, and spritz of lemon juice is all that is needed to elevate the flavours. Made more dressing which also served as a dip for some homemade Ciabatta and that is a complete meal, not to mention a perfect lunch for me.
A simple dish with a simple ingredients list.
Fresh fennel. Don’t be greedy to choose one which is too big as it would end up being very fibrous and tough. Too small is no good either as the flavours are not as intense as they should be.
Melange of meslcuns as well as rucola. The slight bitterness of rocket balances the briny flavours of parma ham.
Wedging the blood oranges for a spectrum of orangey hues. I’d also added bits of navel orange for their sweetness.
An orangey colour wheel…
Insalata di Finocchio con Arancia Rossa di Sicilia (serves 1)
Half a bulb of fennel
2 oranges of your preferred variety (I used 1 Sicilian blood orange and 1 navel orange)
handful of pine nuts (optional)
4-5 thin slices of parma ham (optional)
handful of fresh salad greens (optional)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice from half a lemon
a small pinch of sea salt
dash of freshly ground pepper
a generous splosh of aged balsamic vinegar (optional)
Julienne fennel very very thinly and set aside.
Peel orange want cut out wedges leaving behind the membrane.
Rinse salad greens and toss them in a basket to dry them thoroughly (if using).
Toast pine nuts over a low flame (if using).
In a small bowl, mix all the components in the dressing list until they are well elmulsified.
Plate salad greens and fennel and top with parma ham, orange wedges.
Drizzle dressing generously over the ingredients and sprinkle toasted pine nuts.
Prosciutto e Melone con Insalata di Rucola