Here in South Florida we’re rolling in fruit right now, especially citrus. Growing up in Fort Lauderdale and Puerto Rico, oranges were always what was available for a snack and if we uttered every kid’s mantra to our mother, “Mama, I’m hungry! What’s for a snack?” “Have an orange.”, was her usual answer. And although I’m chewing on a Navel as I write these words (go figure!) I can still remember the anger I felt with my usual retort, “Mama! Nobody wants an orange!” And her predictable reply was, “Then you’re not really hungry!” Oranges. Always in our kitchen. Like the day I was going to run away. I was maybe nine or ten and had had a nasty quarrel with my mother. I said the most awful things I could think of while she remained calm and collected. Finally, I exploded and threatened to run away. Mama continued to straighten the kitchen and merely responded with a soothing, “Okay, cielo. Be careful.” I was livid and she didn’t even care. What could I do? After making that announcement I HAD to run away. I knew I’d need supplies if I was living on the road. I had to put my food in something but what? And then it came to me. My gorgeous, enormous, deep purple Easter basket! I dragged it out of the garage and filled it with, you guessed it. Oranges. I hooked the basket over one of the handle bars and two seconds later I was pedaling as fast as I could down Las Olas Boulevard, my Easter basket slapping up against my leg every time I hit a bump in the road. Well, I’d show them. They’d never see me again. They’d be sorry. I would die and Mama would cry and feel bad for the rest of her life because it would be HER fault. Past the islands I flew, Nurmi, Fiesta Way, and Isle of Venice. I began to ease up on the pedals. The fury in me had melted away as I slowly became aware of my surroundings. I was right about at Jody Cabot’s house when I realized it was getting late. I was hungry, it was dinner time and the sun was going down. As I pushed myself to pedal up the stone bridge before her house I thought, “I can’t sleep outside! There’ll be mosquitos and it’ll be dark! I’ll run away tomorrow.” This little hot head turned her bike around and happily pedaled home secure in her wise and sensible decision. Mama didn’t bat an eye when I walked through the door with my suitcase/Easter basket but there was a loving smile in her voice when she sang out, “Please don’t forget to put back the oranges!”
Ah, summer. Well into a typical, steamy summer I’ve finally perfected my new favorite salad and dressing. And for all our griping and bellyaching about the heat we have to confess it’s positively glorious outside. Two of my dearest are in bloom, jasmine and gardenia. Butterflies and dragonflies perform their unique dance over plumeria, porterweed and black eye susans. And how about our citrus? It may be August but we still have juicy Duncan grapefruit and Valencia oranges to enjoy in countless ways. This fresh orange vinaigrette is sweet, light and perfection in this salad when paired with blackened seafood or richly seasoned grilled chops. The peppery arugula and lemon-anise fennel cut through the deep, full flavors of lobster, shrimp or pork while the garden-fresh orange juice seems to round out the dish with its sweetness. The fennel tastes best when cut paper-thin so if you don’t own a mandoline, well, maybe now is the time to get one. I bought mine a few years back on-line after reading an article in The New York Times regarding a young woman who traveled the country cooking her food for all who were interested. The article mentioned the brand and model number of her choice travel mandoline. I was on that like a duck on a June bug! It’s made by Benriner and cost about $25.00. Lightweight and easy to clean, the mandoline makes short work of paper-thin fruits and vegetables to thick, fat chunks. It will take a finger off if you’re not careful but I still love it. Back to the dressing, it lasts for days in the refrigerator and maintains its freshness down to the last drop. White vinegar may be used but I find it to be a bit weak. Last of all, please try to use a good quality block of parmesan cheese and shave it by hand over the salad just before serving. Freshly shaved makes all the difference in the world. Enjoy, gentle readers, and stay cool.
Arugula, Fennel & Parmesan Salad with a Fresh Orange Vinaigrette
- 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- fresh fennel, thinly shaved
- parmesan cheese, shavings
- freshly cracked black pepper
- Combine orange juice, honey, olive oil, vinegar and salt in a glass jar or nonreactive container with lid. Shake well and chill until dressing salad.
- To assemble salad, place arugula and fennel in a large bowl and toss to combine.
- Give the salad dressing a quick shake to combine and pour over salad. Toss salad well.
- Add parmesan shavings and toss well.
- Taste for salt, add the black pepper and serve.