It’s finally spring and after a winter of eating hearty dishes like brothy beans with polenta, I am ready for main course salads. Fennel, oranges and feta were made to be together and mild, creamy white beans are their perfect partner. Nuts add crunch while the black olives bring a briny hit of salt, fresh herbs keep it fresh. Put it all together, and you get my idea of a perfect bean salad.
- 1 garlic clove, grated on a rasp
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup grapeseed or other ﬂavourless oil
- 3 tbsp walnut oil
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed (i use mix of navy and white kidney)
- 1 large shallot, ﬁnely sliced
- 2 oranges, peeled, segmented
- Handful of Italian parsley, chopped
- Handful of fresh dill, chopped
- 1 fennel bulb, roasted and sliced
- 2/3 cup wrinkly black olives
- 140g greek feta, crumbled
- Small handful of toasted, chopped walnuts
In a glass jar, mix together the vinaigrette ingredients and shake until emulsiﬁed.
Preheat the oven to 400F
Cut the top of the fennel off and cut the bulb in half. Cut out most of the core on each half and then slice both up into 1″ wedges. Reserve the feathery leaves from the stalks to scatter over the top of the salad and I keep the rest for soup stock.
Toss the fennel in a bowl with a glug of olive oil, a pinch of salt and then lay them out on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes before turning them and cook for another 15 or 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them after you turn them so that they don’t shrivel up and burn – you want them nicely caramelized with brown spots but still soft and not burnt. When they are done, set aside to cool. Chop the fennel or slice into thin slices, whatever you prefer.
While the fennel cooks:
Cut the orange segments into two or three chunks. Chop the herbs, remove and discard the olive pits and chop the black olives. Crumble the feta.
For the salad, add the white beans and shallots to the dressing and toss well. Let stand at room temp for at least 10 minutes.
Stir in the fennel slices, orange segments, olives, herbs, feta and walnuts, taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired. Top with fennel fronds
If you want to plate more formally, mound the salad into a shallow bowl or platter, arrange the orange rounds either around the edges or overlapped down the centre, scatter the reserved fennel, olives and nuts and then finish with the fennel fronds.
Optional for serving a composed salad: another orange, peeled and sliced into thin rounds, another 2 tbsp of chopped olive, a couple tbsp of reserved roasted fennel, a couple tbsp of toasted walnut to scatter over the top