I have this notebook.
It’s old and ratty, butter stained, and filled with the years of this blog. The things I’ve made, the things I want to make, recipes, notes, and post ideas. Sometimes, more often than I’d like, the season gets past me before I manage to post a recipe. My grandmother’s applesauce cake, for example, I’ve intended to post each autumn so far.
It’s funny how a season can go flying by. I can hardly believe we’re into March already and I’ve got just three months to go on my thesis project. 91 days, if you’re counting (I’m totally counting). Spring has its official beginnings in a matter of weeks, and thanks to an unusually mild winter, we’re already seeing signs of life appearing here.
This grapefruit and fennel salad has lived for many seasons in my notebook, so I am unimaginably pleased to finally be sharing it with you all. I’m sneaking it in before the winter citrus disappears for the year (not that anything ever really disappears these days, but you know what I mean), and I hope that you make it because its flavour, bright and fresh, tastes like the changing season.
The salad is a tangle of grapefruit, in careful rounds; fennel, sliced paper thin; and red onions, their bite mellowed with a grapefruit juice marinade. A simple but powerful dressing is made of toasted fennel seeds, grapefruit juice, and olive oil, all bound together with a touch of honey and Dijon mustard.
Not familiar with fennel? It’s a member of the Umbellifereae family, closely related to parsley, carrots, dill, and coriander. All parts of the plant are edible, from the seeds to the feathery greens, and it has a deliciously etherial licorice flavour. Fennel contains a unique complement of phytonutrients that give it strong antioxidant activity. Additionally, the fennel bulb (the part we’re using here) is rich in a type of vitamin C that is directly antimicrobial and vital for proper function and support of the immune system. Perfect for this time of year when the dregs of winter sicknesses are ravaging many of us.
Fennel is an amazing source of vitamin C. It is a great source of dietary fiber, potassium, molybdenum, manganese, copper, phosphorous, and folate. Furthermore, fennel is a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, and niacin.
Grapefruit, one of the giants of the citrus family, is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is also a great source of carotenoids; a pre-curser to vitamin A. Dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin B1 round out this nutritional powerhouse. Ruby red and pink grapefruits also contain lycopene (good for your prostates, fellas!). Grapefruits also contain pectin, which is a form of soluble fiber that has been shown to slow down the development of atherosclerosis and reduce blood levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- 3 ruby red grapefruits
- ¼ tsp whole fennel seeds
- 1 tsp honey
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion
- 1 medium fennel bulb
- 200g baby spinach leaves or other green (see headnotes)
- Slice one of the grapefruits in half and squeeze the juice from it into a small bowl.
- Slice the onion in half, and then using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice the halves into thin half moons.
- Reserve ¼ cup grapefruit juice for the dressing, and toss the remainder with the onion slices. Set aside to marinate while you're preparing the rest of the salad.
- Toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until they are just beginning to smell fragrant.
- Transfer them into a small bowl, and using the end of a wooden spoon (or a mortar and pestle if you've got that situation going on) bash the fennel seeds to break them up a bit.
- Add the reserved ¼ cup grapefruit juice, honey, Dijon, some salt and pepper, and the olive oil, and whisk everything together to form the dressing.
- Using a pairing knife, slice the ends from the remaining two grapefruits, then cut all of the remaining peel and pith and outer membranes away.
- Slice the grapefruit into thin rounds or half moons.
- Trim the fronds from the fennel, slice the bulb in half, and remove the core. Use a very sharp knife or a mandoline to slice paper thin slices of fennel.
- When you're ready to serve, drain the onions from the grapefruit juice and place them in a large salad bowl. Add the spinach, grapefruit (you may need to drain this a bit as well), and fennel, then pour the dressing over top and give everything a good toss. Serve immediately.