What happens when you bring together sweet oranges, refreshing raw fennel, peppery arugula, and some salty olives? The Sicilians definitely knew what they were doing with insalata di arance e finocchi, or orange and fennel salad. I highly recommend picking up some fresh fennel (finocchi) at your local farmer’s market. Then you can try this magical salad combination for yourself!
One of the wonderful things about getting produce home deliveries is that I often get sent things that I don’t regularly buy. Recently, I was sent some beautiful fresh fennel. Just look at all of those wispy fennel fronds!
The vegetable fennel tends to not be an extremely common ingredient where I live. Unlike ubiquitous fennel seeds (a necessity in any good Italian fennel sausage), fennel bulbs are not always available in our grocery stores. What would I do with this bounty of gorgeous fennel that I had acquired?
There’s a Mediterranean restaurant near my home that serves a fennel orange rocket (AKA fennel orange arugula) salad. Aside from the main ingredients, it also has olives, sunflower seeds, pistachios, and an orange vinaigrette. *Drool*
I had not tried this salad combo at home before (insalata di arance e finocchi) but now was the time. I’ve included some shredded orange chicken in my version of this fennel and orange salad. The chicken offers a high-quality protein boost and elevates this salad to main dish status.
By the way, I did take a small shortcut with this one. Though I don’t typically prefer canned fruit and veggies over fresh, I do prefer canned mandarin oranges in salads.
You may have noticed this already in my other recipes, such as the chicken salad with lemon-ginger dressing. Choose oranges canned in juice (not syrup) and skip the work of segmenting oranges!
How to prepare the finocchi in your insalata di arance e finocchi
As mentioned above, fennel the vegetable is not the most common ingredient in U.S. cooking. No worries though, I’m going to show you exactly how to use it. In this recipe, we’ll be using the cored fennel bulbs and the fennel fronds only.
However, you can use the whole fennel plant in your cooking. Whatever you do, don’t throw any part of your fennel out!
In the recipe video below, I’m going to show you how I separate the fennel bulb from the rest of the plant. Please don’t judge my knife skills here; remember, I’m a dietitian and not a chef by trade! The intent of the video is primarily to show which parts of the fennel bulb we’re using.
If I were roasting fennel, I would roast the fennel core with the bulbs. Since we’re eating the fennel raw, I’m removing the core. Fennel cores can be tough and are best not eaten raw.
You can save the base of the fennel bulb, the fennel bulb core, and the fennel stalks to use in homemade vegetable broth. Check out my post on how to make vegetable stock if you’d like to learn more. Making your own veggie broth is a super way to use your veggie trimmings and help to prevent food waste.
Before using your fennel stalks in a broth, be sure to remove all of the feathery fennel fronds. We’re going to use some of the fronds as a garnish on this salad. They have a lovely anise flavor, and it would be a shame to waste them.
If you have extra fennel fronds after using them as a garnish, they make an excellent pesto. Substitute fennel fronds for the carrot leaves in my carrot leaves pesto recipe. SO DELICIOUS!
Fitting this orange and fennel salad into your healthy eating plan
Insalata di arance e finocchi is naturally a low-carb and low-calorie salad. (Well, it may not be low-calorie if we throw a ton of olive oil, nuts, olives, and seeds on it. I did not do that here.)
I’m a middle-aged person with a teenage son at home who (of course) has high energy needs. In my household, I find that low-calorie salads (such as this one) are better for my lunches versus a family dinner. I like to meal prep several of these salads, so my lunches are ready to go on busy weekdays.
If you tend to be a little picky about food textures, meal prepping salads may not be the best option for you. That said, keeping certain ingredients separate until serving time can go a long way to prevent salad sogginess. With this salad, here’s what I would separate out:
- The orange vinaigrette (never dress a meal prepped salad until you are ready to eat!)
- Any ingredients that should stay very dry (here that would be the nuts and seeds)
- Any ingredients that would make the lettuce wet (aside from the dressing here, I’d also separate the oranges)
I’m going to provide a link to the salad containers I use in the equipment section (in the recipe card below). The containers I use have dressing cups with leak-proof lids, as well as a divided section to keep wet and dry ingredients separate.
The bowl base that holds the lettuce is one of the largest I’ve seen. It’s excellent for the high-volume salads I like to create.
I love these containers and use them nearly every week for my lunches. If you also regularly meal prep lunches, you might want to check them out! They are absolutely perfect for this insalata di arance e finocchi recipe.
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to this post. Let's get cooking!
Insalata di Arance e Finocchi (Orange and Fennel Salad)
For the shredded orange chicken:
- 1 lb. chicken breast cutlets, thinly sliced (454 grams)
- ½ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
- ½ tablespoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- ½ tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
For the orange vinaigrette:
- 6 tablespoons orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
For assembly of the salads:
- 2 bulbs fennel (I had 18 ounces/510 grams of fennel bulb left after removing the stalks and cores)
- 21 ounces mandarin oranges, packed in juice (595 grams; canned)
- 10 ounces baby arugula (284 grams; also known as rocket)
- ½ cup black olives, sliced
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted
- ¼ cup pistachios, toasted and chopped
- ½ cup fennel fronds, chopped (for garnish)
To make the shredded orange chicken:
- Combine all of the "for the shredded orange chicken" ingredients except the chicken to make your marinade. Marinate your chicken pieces in this mixture in the refrigerator for anywhere from four hours to overnight.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Put your chicken with the marinade in an oven-safe baking dish. Once your oven is heated, bake the chicken (uncovered) for 20-30 minutes.
- Lift your chicken out of the marinade once it has finished cooking. Shred the chicken with two forks. Refrigerate your shredded chicken while you make the rest of the salad.
To make the orange vinaigrette:
- Whisk all of the "for the orange vinaigrette" ingredients together. Set the dressing aside while you assemble the salads.
To assemble the salads:
- Prepare your fennel bulb by removing the stalks and core. (Watch the recipe video to see how I do it!) Slice the fennel very thinly using either the slicing blade of a food processor or a mandoline. I'm always afraid of slicing a finger on mandolines, so I opted to use the food processor.
- Drain your canned mandarin oranges.
- Divide the baby arugula between four meal prep containers or serving bowls.
- Top each bowl of arugula with an even amount of sliced fennel bulb, oranges, orange chicken, olives, pistachios, and sunflower seeds. Garnish with the fennel fronds.
- Drizzle the salad with the orange vinaigrette dressing right before serving. Yum! (For additional tips on using this salad recipe as a meal prep, check out the post above.) These salads are so refreshing after being chilled!
Do you ever use fennel in your recipes? What are some of your favorite ways to use the various parts of the vegetable fennel? I’d love to hear about how you’re using the bulb, stalk, and fronds of fennel in the comments below!
And if you do try this insalata di arance e finocchi, please don’t be shy! I’d love to hear about how it went, so drop me some feedback and/or a rating. I hope that you enjoy this refreshing Mediterranean salad as much as I do!