I used to hate fennel. Anise, black licorice, ouzo, pastis – I hated all of it. I especially hated it with orange. But then I realized that I liked it depending on what I ate it with, and I especially loved it roasted, when it sweetened and softened in flavour. From there I learned to like it raw, and now I’m a bit of an addict.
It still took awhile for me to like it with orange, though. I blame the orange, not the fennel for this. But I discovered that it all depended on the type of orange I used. I like sweeter, juicier oranges. If I use tart oranges, this is, to me, an awful salad. (I know I’m really selling you on it, right?) If you use mandarins or cara caras or blood oranges or even just really sweet navels, it’s lovely.
So I tried them all. My favourites were the mandarins since they’re just so much sweeter. The trick is to cut the oranges into slices over the bowl of fennel and cabbage so the juices run into the bowl and not a cutting board. This makes its own vinaigrette. You can also do this with green cabbage, but red has so much more colour. And I was saving my green cabbage for some Indian dishes, as you’ll see later this week.
Orange, Fennel and Red Cabbage Salad
1/2 head red cabbage, sliced as thin as possible. Don’t go crazy about it, but you’re the one who’s going to have to chew it, so the size is up to you. Shaving it on a kitchen mandoline is a good idea. So is a large grater if you have the arm strength and endurance.
1 bulb fennel, bulb only, shaved or thinly sliced. Avoid the tough core.
5 mandarin oranges, supremed (I use a lot because they make the salad for me). Or use 2 or 3 larger sweet oranges, or a combination
1/2 tsp salt (this helps soften the cabbage)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (also helps soften the cabbage)
1/4 cup parsley, to either mix in or garnish after tossing, optional
Combine ingredients in order listed above in large bowl. Toss to combine. Ideally leave it for at least 30 minutes to let the cabbage soften, but you can also just eat it right away. It gets even better on day two after sitting in the fridge. You could add nuts or seeds or acid – lemon juice or red wine vinegar – but I like the sweetness and the licorice flavour of the fennel. KISS – keep it simple, stupid. Me, not you. You are clearly not the person to whom I’m referring.