This easy salad highlights one of the best fruits of the late winter season: blood oranges. They add color and delightful flavor to earthy lentils and the caramelized flavor of roasted fennel. For an easy weeknight dish, you can cook the lentils and roast the fennel ahead of time and then refrigerate them. Bring to room temperature just before you assemble the salad and you’ll be ready to eat in no time.
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 25 minutes | Serves 4–6
¾ cup French green lentils (also called Puy lentils)
1 bay leaf
2 large bulbs of fennel
2 blood oranges
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon (heaping) Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place lentils and bay leaf in a medium pot and add enough water to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot and cook lentils until they are still firm but cooked through, about 17 minutes (be careful not to overcook them). Remove and discard the bay leaf. Drain lentils in a colander, and rinse with cool water.
Trim fennel of any stalk and fronds (you can reserve fronds for garnish), and then cut each bulb in half lengthwise. Thinly slice each half and place prepared fennel in a medium bowl. Toss with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and then arrange fennel in an even layer on a baking tray. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing fennel once halfway through, until the edges begin to just slightly brown. Remove fennel from the oven and let it cool thoroughly.
While the fennel roasts, prepare the blood oranges by slicing off tops and bottoms of the rind. Once the ends are removed, cut off one thin slice of blood orange to use for garnish and set it aside. Set the cut ends of the oranges down on your cutting board, and then use a knife to carefully cut the rind and white pith from the flesh of the orange. As you work, follow the natural curves of the fruit. Once both oranges are peeled, thinly slice each orange into rounds and then cut each round into 6 segments.
When you’re ready to assemble the salad, add ¼ cup olive oil, vinegar, mustard and ½ teaspoon salt to a small jar and shake well. Place the lentils, fennel, blood oranges and olives in a large bowl, and pour the dressing over everything. Use a spatula to stir the salad well, and add any additional desired salt.
The salad can be served immediately or refrigerated until ready to serve. When you’re ready to eat it, place the salad in a serving bowl and garnish with the reserved orange slice and a few chopped fennel fronds.