This is a fast and easy-to-make Sicilian-style salad to serve as a delicious entree or a fresh side dish. It is also tasty, light and healthy: the vitamins and minerals in the oranges and fennel will make you feel full of energy.
In Italy, we consider this a Sicilian recipe because of the presence of the oranges. Oranges are one of the most important cultivation in Sicily, thanks to an Arabian conqueror who brought many citrus species and started the tradition of eating oranges in salad and not only as a fruit by itself. The best known Sicilian orange variety is the “Tarocco” and if you visit Italy you should try it, it’s sweet and juicy, and of course delicious!
An amusing Italian verb, ‘infinocchiare’ [cheat], derives from the word fennel [finocchio]. The reason why it is used as a synonym for cheating is that the aroma of raw fennel can alter the flavors of the ingredients to which it is added. In particular, its intense flavor is able to mask the taste of poor quality wine or wine that has been preserved incorrectly and has a hint of vinegar flavor. For this reason in many taverns of the past there was a habit of serving fennel or fennel bread to customers to confuse the taste of the soured wine. Customers were thus “cheated” about the quality of the wines served: they were ‘infinocchiati’.
Sometimes in Italy the word ‘capers’ [capperi] is used as an exclamation of surprise: capperi, che bello! [Wow, it’s beautiful]. I don’t know the reason why, even the dictionary is quite vague about the etymology of ‘capperi‘ as an exclamation. I like to think that the reason is the caper’s flower, simply amazing!
This recipe is extremely easy to prepare and you will find different versions of this salad; there are those who add onion, those who add chives, those who instead of capers use black olives or nuts or seeds. This is my own recipe.
I cut the fennel with a mandoline slicer in order to get thinner slices, while I rinse the capers in a colander under running water. For how to cut the orange, I suggest you to watch one of my favorites Jacques Pepin videos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huFjPGrq1Og), I simply love his style!
Mark and I like to eat this as a side dish with a salmon grilled steak.
Here is the recipe for two portions, of course.
Ready in 10 minutes.
- 1 medium fennel bulb (200 gr.), trimmed, cored, and sliced very thin
- 2 Naval Oranges
- 1-1/2 tablespoons (30 gr.) salted capers, rinsed
- 1 tablespoon (10 gr.) extra-virgin olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Cut the tops and bottoms off of the oranges to expose the pulp, and slice off all of the peel and white pith. Hold one of the oranges over a large bowl and use a paring knife to cut between each section and the pith membrane clinging to each side of it to release each section and drop the orange segment into the bowl. Repeat with the second orange. Squeeze any juice from the emptied membranes into the bowl; discard the membranes.
- Add the fennel and the capers.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the salad and season to taste with the freshly ground pepper.
- Toss well, and serve.
That’s all! Buon appetito!