A refreshing blood orange and fennel salad of healthy greens combined with avocado, mint, radish, parmesan cheese and walnuts topped with a citrus vinaigrette.
As we ease into spring, it’s time to welcome new fruits and vegetables. I particularly look forward to vibrant and juicy blood oranges. The beautiful magenta color inspires me to create this blood orange and fennel salad to celebrate all of the fresh ingredients of the season. The crunchy vegetables, sweet oranges, licorice flavors, and delicious cheese makes for a light and healthy salad!
When choosing salad greens, I like a blend of tender baby kale and spinach, and red leaf lettuce. They all have different nutrients to collectively provide fiber, iron, and vitamins like K and A, and antioxidants. I added fresh mint for extra aromatics which gives a surprising burst of flavor.
I couldn’t resist 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. Avocado and walnuts add a nice creaminess to the salad. Just a little bit of sliced radish provides a peppery note to each bite.
What is an emulsion?
When making homemade vinaigrette or dressings, it’s important to understand emulsions. We all know that oil and water do not mix. This occurrence is because oil is hydrophobic (does not like water) and water is hydrophilic (likes water), so they repel each other. How do you get these two natural enemies combined? Force!
In this case, mixing with a whisk when gradually adding oil to the vinegar. This action helps break the oil into smaller droplets creating oil in water emulsion. The only downside is that this mixture is often semi-permanent and eventually the oil droplets will find each other and recombine. No worries, just whisk the dressing again right before serving.
For the citrus vinaigrette in this recipe, the juice from the blood orange, red wine vinegar, honey, shallots, and olive oil are combined by vigorously whisking. Honey is a natural emulsifier, helping the vinaigrette stay thickened and mixed a little longer.
Spring inspired ingredients gives this blood orange fennel salad a pop of color! The tender greens, seasonal fruits, and vegetables plus a simple homemade orange dressing creates an edible garden in your bowl. What are your favorite springtime foods?
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 or mustard for salad dressings. Using these ingredients not only gives extra flavor but keeps my food emulsions together longer!
Blood Orange and Fennel Salad
- 2 cups baby kale
- 3 cups baby spinach
- 3 cups red leaf lettuce
- 1 tablespoon mint, thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, (1 cup) thinly sliced horizontally to the root
- 1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
- 4 radish, thinly sliced
- 2 blood oranges, peeled, segmented slices, juice squeezed and reserved from leftover pulp
- 1 Navel orange, peeled, segmented slices
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons blood orange juice
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon shallots, minced
- In a large bowl, gently combine kale, spinach, lettuce, and mint. Top with fennel, avocado, radish, blood orange, navel orange, walnuts, and parmesan cheese.
- 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. Serve salad with vinaigrette.