The Spring season welcomes a time for new fruits and vegetables to make their appearance! I particularly look forward to vibrant and juicy blood oranges. My first spring time visit to the Old Towne Orange Farmers and Artisans Market in Orange, California has inspired this refreshing blood orange and fennel salad recipe.
A local farmer had a variety of gorgeous tender baby lettuces, so I picked up arugula, spinach and red leaf. I also added basil and mint for extra aromatics into the salad which gives a surprising burst of flavor. I couldn’t resist also adding fresh shaved fennel to give the salad a delicate licorice taste. The fennel is a perfect compliment to the sweetness of the oranges and cooling sensation from the mint.
The OC Baking Company stand had piles of their delicious fresh baked artisan breads at the market. I decided to make homemade garlic infused sourdough croutons from their fantastic rosemary sourdough loaf! This added extra crunch and texture to the salad.
Spring inspired ingredients gives your salad dishes a pop of color! Adding pieces of shaved Parmesan and garlic croutons gives the finishing touch to the refreshing blood orange and fennel salad.
TIP #1: What is an emulsion? We all know that oil and water does not mix. This occurrence is because oil is hydrophobic (does not like water) and water is hydrophilic (likes water), so they repel each other. Sometimes getting two immiscible things to mix, and stay together is challenging. How do you get these two natural enemies combined? Well, one technique is brut force (applying shear, aka. mixing, in this case with a whisk), when you are gradually adding the oil to the vinegar. This action helps break the oil into smaller oil droplets creating an oil in water emulsion. The only downside is that the emulsion is often semi-permanent and eventually the oil droplets will find each other and recombine. This is a classic example when you buy oil and vinegar based dressings from the market and you have to shake it every time before adding it to your salads.
TIP #2: What is an emulsifier? Sometimes you need the right “friend” that can bring two opposing things together. An emulsifier is a molecule with one oil-friendly and one water-friendly end, this allows the emulsifier to join the oil and water based ingredients into an emulsion. Some natural emulsifiers that I like to use in my cooking are egg yolks (for mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce), and honey and mustard for salad dressings. Using these ingredients not only gives extra flavor, but keeps my food emulsions together longer!
- ½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced horizontally to the root
- 1 cup arugula
- ½ cup baby spinach
- ½ cup red leaf lettuce
- 1 tablespoon mint, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, julienne
- ¼ cup micro greens
- 2 blood oranges, segmented slices, juice squeezed and reserved from leftover pulp
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon blood orange juice
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon shallots, minced
- Parmesan cheese, shaved (for garnish)
- Croutons (If desired)
- Combine honey, blood orange juice, vinegar and shallots in a medium bowl.
- Gradually add the olive oil and whisk, until incorporated into the vinegar mixture, creating an emulsion (thickened dressing).
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- In a large bowl, gently combine the arugula, spinach, lettuce, mint, basil and microgreens. Add the fennel and combine.
- Gradually add the vinaigrette to the salad, and toss until lightly coated. Make sure to taste!
- Add the blood oranges, and gently toss into the salad.
- Portion out the salad, then garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese and croutons.