Grilled Fennel and Orange Salad with Almonds & Mint

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I do love vegetables, but if pressed, I might have to own up to being more of a fruit girl. Well, I was. One spectacularly simple dish in Chicago a few years ago tipped the scales for me and started me on the path to vegetable worship. It was a beautiful little dish of roasted fennel and whipped goat cheese. The combination was so simple, but it was really one of the best vegetable dishes I’ve eaten, and I have been a fennel lover ever since. If you’ve never had fennel, it’s hard to explain the flavor. I hesitate to use the words ‘anise’ or ‘licorice’ because that might deter people who don’t like licorice. When raw, fennel does have a teensy bit of licorice flavor, but it is more subtle and sweet than anise. When roasted or grilled, the flavors just concentrate into something I can only describe as wonderful (pretty much any roasted vegetable is wonderful in my opinion). I’ve served fennel to people who don’t normally like licorice, and they have loved it, so give it a try if you’re unsure. This salad is very simple and quite frankly, delicious. The grilled fennel is tasty, but I’ve also made it with roasted fennel which I like just as much. I plan to make this with roasted fennel in the winter when the poor charcoal grill is in garage-hibernation for winter. If you want to roast it, slice and prepare the fennel in the same way and roast on a sheet pan in a 400 degree oven. Roast until nicely browned and caramelized, then flip the fennel and continue roasting until the other side is lightly browned and the fennel is tender.

from: Bobby Flay
serves: 4 (small servings)

fennel salad

2 bulbs fennel, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 oranges, peeled and segmented*, plus 1 orange, juiced and zested
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (or more to taste, but I thought 2 tablespoons was too much)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

Heat grill to high. Brush the fennel with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until slightly charred and almost cooked through. Place fennel on a platter and scatter orange segments over the top. Whisk together the orange zest, orange juice, mustard, and olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Drizzle vinaigrette over the salad. Sprinkle with almonds and mint and serve.
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* To segment an orange: I tried writing out the steps, but I think this video will explain it better. This works for any citrus fruit.


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