I’ve never liked the taste of mint in my food. For as long as I could remember, I always felt as if toothpaste was the secret ingredient in the dishes that used it. It’s only recently that my tastebuds have suddenly decided to embrace the refreshing taste of fresh mint leaves in salads (Yes, I eat salads during the winter). As I am writing this, fluffy snowflakes are slowly falling from the sky. But there is something about this salad that makes it so comforting even though it’s freezing outside. Plus, with its beautiful pink hue, it’s the perfect side dish for Valentine’s Day (yes, I’m cheezy like that)!
I love fennel! So simple and delicious on its own, I’ve been know to slice one up and eat it all myself. But I felt it was finally time to go beyond the usual olive oil, lemon, black pepper combination and explore more unique (and always healthy) options. This salad with blood orange is quite unique. I’ve had never even tasted a blood orange before this recipe, but I have to say that I am really happy I did. The clean flavour of the fennel with the sweetness of the oranges and the freshness of the mint blend together so perfectly, punctuated with the crunch of toasted hazelnuts. Divine!
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts or walnuts
1 medium to large fennel bulb
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 blood oranges
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
10-15 mint leaves (depending on your preference)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lime
1- Throw the hazelnuts in a pan and set over medium heat and lightly toast. Once they are toasted to your liking, remove from heat and set aside.
2- Cut the bottom off the fennel and use a mandoline to slice it thinly. If you don’t have a mandoline you can use a knife but believe me, get a mandoline. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!
3- Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss to combine.
4- Trim the peel from the oranges. Holding the fruit over the bowl, cut the sections of the membrane and let them drop into the bowl. Once the whole fruit has been cut, squeeze the remaining fruit over the bowl to sprinkle the juice over the salad. Toss the rest in the garbage.
5- Add the shallot, mint, olive oil and toss to combine.
6- Garnish with lime zest and enjoy!
P.S. Although this salad is great on the first day, it’s even better on the second day (although the colours aren’t as vibrant).
[All photos are my own and not to be used without permission.]