This is the salad, my dad, Mario, came up with for the big sister-cities dinner that Solari’s hosted for the visiting dignitaries from Sestri Levante. The combination of the sweet oranges, crunchy fennel, and salty olives makes for a zesty palate-cleanser.
And because the salad can be prepared in advance and then tossed at the last minute, it’s a terrific side dish for a dinner party of any size, from four to forty guests.
Use only the bulb of the fennel, and core and quarter it before slicing. For the oranges, make sure to remove most of their white pith, as it can be bitter. You can squeeze the two teaspoons of juice needed for the dressing from one of the oranges before cutting it up.
The dressing can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge; just be sure to take it out at least a half hour before serving, and give it a good stir before using.
This recipe is excerpted from Death al Fresco: A Sally Solari Mystery.
For the Salad
- 2 cups naval oranges, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks (about 3 large oranges)
- 2 cups fennel, thinly sliced
- 1 cup sliced, pitted Greek-style black olives
- 6 cups baby spinach
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Dressing
- 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
- 2 teaspoons orange juice
- 1 Mix the mustard, pepper, sugar, and vinegar together in a bowl until smooth and the sugar has dissolved. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl, using a wire whisk to incorporate it into the other ingredients. (Don't beat it too hard, or the oil can become bitter.) Once smooth, finish by whisking in the orange juice. Add more juice or a little water, if needed to thin to your desired consistency.
- 2 Toss all the salad ingredients in a large bowl, then drizzle on the dressing and toss again. Season with salt and pepper to taste.