My son-in-law, Chris, is making the main dish this Christmas—his Grandmother’s Boston clam chowder. I provided a spinach salad and fresh oyster crackers to go with it. Miriam made rum balls for dessert.
Years ago, I was at a dinner party and the hostess served a spinach and fennel salad that I have been trying to replicate ever since. One of the secrets of using raw fennel bulb in a salad is to slice it really thinly. A mandoline is especially useful for this task—unless you are a master with a knife, you simply cannot consistently cut the fennel thinly enough.
Even with a mandoline the task is difficult. If you remove the central core, you are left trying to hold the layers of the bulb together as you try to slice them. Here, the trick is to leave the core in as long as you can. Tilt the bulb to slice the leaves from the core and, if necessary, cut the bits of core away from the slices.
Note: You cannot really do this with the “vegetable holder” that comes with the mandoline. I strongly suggest that when you get a mandoline you also buy cut resistant gloves. Holding the vegetables in your hand gives you much more control over your slicing.
Karl’s Spinach, Orange, and Fennel Salad
2 navel oranges
¼ cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 Tbs. Karl’s Micro Orange Marmalade
OR commercial marmalade plus ½ tsp. orange zest
1 Tbs. Champaign vinegar
pinch black pepper
pinch celery seed
pinch Kosher salt
1 fennel bulb
1 white heirloom carrot
5 oz. baby spinach
1. Cut each pole end from the fruit and slice away the rind.
Tip: Starting at one point at the top, cut down following the curve of the orange to remove all of the white pith. It is OK of you cut just a bit deep. Cutting strip by strip work your way around the fruit. turn the fruit over and remove any remaining rind and pith.
Note: Squeeze the juice from the top and bottom slices into a medium bowl.
2. Remove the orange sections from the oranges and put them in a bowl.
Tip: Hold the fruit in one hand and slice along the membrane on one side of a segment. Slice alone the opposite membrane and pop the segment into a bowl.
Note: Do this over the bowl, to catch any juices that are released during this process.
3. When you are done removing the segments, squeeze out any remaining juice and discard the membranes.
4. Gently remove the orange segments to a seal-able bowl and refrigerate them.
Tip: The only thing holding the segments together is the juice cell walls sticking to each other. Rough handling will leave you with a broken mess, rather than pretty orange segments.
Note: You should have about a quarter cup of juice in the bowl at this point.
5. Add the oil, marmalade, vinegar, pepper, celery seed, and salt to the bowl and mix well.
6. Slice the fennel bulb as finely as possible and add it to the bowl.
7. Peel and shred the carrot and add it to the bowl.
Note: You could use a box grater, but I wanted my carrots to be close to the same size as the fennel slices. The shredder on my mandoline produces carrot match sticks that are a bit too large and crunchy for a salad. My Titan vegetable shredder produces Goldilocks shreds—shreds that are just the right size.
8. Toss the fennel and carrots to coat and marinate them for several hours.
Tip: I transferred the vegetables to a seal-able plastic bag and marinated them over night.
9. Just before dinner, place the spinach in a salad bowl and pour the vegetables and dressing over them.
10. Toss the vegetables to coat the spinach and mix in the fennel and carrots
11. Add the orange segments, toss gently once more, and serve.