Just a few seconds outside the main gates of the restaurant Antonio’s in Tagaytay, Gejo Jimenez guided us to a street-side drop off of freshly harvested fennel. The plots of fennel were growing just twenty meters away from the road. It was a bit like a drug-drop set-up if you were observing from afar, except that the bags had leafy fennel fronds protruding from them. Back at home, I wondered what to do with the bounty of fennel. There are two kinds of fennel I think, the “female” bulbs that are robust and globular in shape, and the “male” bulbs that are longer and flatter. Not sure if what I got were “males”, or just tropicalized and warmer weather “females”… at any rate, they were flatter than their imported cousins.
Just the day before, I had spied and purchased a few blood oranges from S&R, and there was some baby arugula in the refrigerator, so I had the makings of a slightly unusual, but classic pairing of fennel, oranges and greens. So easy, so incredibly attractive, and delicious to boot!
Take several fennel bulbs and chop off the fronds (don’t throw them away, you can use them to garnish the final dish) and wash the bulbs thoroughly. Slice thinly with a knife or on a mandoline and toss with some slices of blood orange sections (regular oranges would do fine as well) and some baby arugula leaves.
Add some blood orange juice, some good extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and you are good to go. You can chill this before serving, but not for too long as the arugula will wilt with the acid from the orange juice.
Terrific with grilled or roasted meats, fish and other main courses. Sophisticated sounding, looking and tasting, but incredibly easy to make.