Fennel is one of those foods that always surprises me. There are enough people out there I know that are so put-off by the stuff, I have it stored in my head that it can't be that good. So every time I do end up having it, it's always an amazement how much I really enjoy it.
Despite the strong anise aroma—something I too find a bit off-putting—the flavor tends to be a bit more mellow, especially after the fennel has been cooked, which it was in this particular salad. Grilled fennel was tossed with orange slices, almonds, mints, and a orange vinaigrette to come together as a might tasty side.
The grill gave the fennel a little sweetness and produced a nice contrast between the crunch and softness, while the juicy orange slices added another punch of sweetness that edged out over any remaining anise flavor. I'm pretty sure this combo could make at least a few fennel haters experience an unknown love for this bulb—often a surprise to myself.
- For the vinaigrette
- Juice from 1 orange
- Zest from 1/2 an orange
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 bulbs fennel, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
- Olive oil
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3 oranges, peeled and segmented
- 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
- Type of fire: direct
- Grill heat: high
In small bowl, whisk together orange juice, zest, mustard, and olive oil to make vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate. Brush fennel slices lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill fennel over high heat until charred and slightly softened, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove from grill and roughly chop, discarding any remaining pieces of core.
In large bowl toss together fennel, orange segments, almonds, and mint. Drizzle on vinaigrette and serve.