Every recipe has a story. Some more interesting than others.
Here's the interesting version: The heirloom fennel pictured above grew on a slope in Liguria. I picked it myself on a cool, dewy morning, emboldened by espresso, dreaming of its licorice-scented sweetness. Later that day, while savoring a fennel-orange salad, I watched with rapt attention as the owner of a rustic trattoria pressed ravioli from sheets of tender pasta. I sipped prosecco and admired the olive groves out the paint-chipped window. Another glass? Why yes, I'd love one. And a slice of prosciutto, too. Thank you, that's lovely.
Here's the true version: I was determined to buy some vegetables at the farmer's market because I tend to come home with a sack full of fruit unless I make a concerted effort. The fennel looked good. I bought it. Once home, I pulled out the mandoline, sliced fennel, onions, and oranges nice and thin (taking care not to remove my fingertip like I did in 2006), and drizzled the lot with olive oil. Then I ate it.
There we go. Two stories: you pick the one that moves you more. Regardless of your selection, the salad takes 5 minutes to throw together and tastes mighty fine.
Recipe for Fennel-Orange Salad with Onion and Capers
Fennel and orange are a classic combination, and by adding red onions and capers you scratch several major flavor itches simultaneously: sweet, juicy, sharp, briny, aromatic. A drizzle of olive oil and some coarse salt and pepper bring the flavors together with almost no effort at all. If you have a mandoline, now's the time to use it.
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, fronds reserved for garnish
1/2 medium red onion, peeled
2 tablespoons capers, drained
olive oil, coarse salt, and pepper
Using a sharp knife, carefully remove the peel and white pith from the oranges. Set your mandoline to medium thickness, and slice the oranges onto a board. Arrange on a large rimmed plate or shallow serving bowl.
Now slice the fennel on the thinnest setting you can muster. Arrange decoratively near the oranges. Repeat with the red onion. Place capers nearby.
Drizzle the salad with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish, if desired, with reserved fennel fronds.