Have you ever thought about winter as a colorful season?
Unlike summer, where scents and colors are brazenly displayed, those of winter must be patiently searched for.
In the blue of a clear sky, under the peel of citrus fruits, among the moist, emerald green tufts of a crispy, belly fennel, in an apple box covered by an old cloth.
Among my favorite winter scents, one reminds me of the fresh, crisp air of the season. That of agrumes.
Oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, bergamots, citrons, lemons, scent the air as soon as they are peeled.
I still do what my grandmother used to do: put orange and lemon peels on the radiators. It is an old method of diffusing their aroma and gives me the pleasure of repeating dear gestures learned as a child.
Oranges on my table.
Oranges are among the most widely grown citrus fruits in the world and Italy is one of the producing countries in the Mediterranean area.
Between Calabrian and Campanian oranges, Sicilian fruits are the most common.
And while it is well known that eating them is a good habit, and that production on global scale means that they are available all year round, for me the agrume season remains winter.
Oranges have been on my winter table since I was a child.
At home, grandmother and parents ate oranges and tangerines as end-of-meal fruit.
But the scent of the orange also makes me think of hot wine, as mulled wine was once called in Romagna. The one that I could only smell and stir and that my grandmother used to make to accompany adult evenings spent playing cards.
Served with walnuts and mandarins, that once snacks were simple things.
The freshly squeezed juice, in Italian spremuta, was reserved for us children’s merenda; otherwise the precious juice was used in the preparation of sauces or desserts.
Pulp and peel were also used to make marmalades.
When I was a child, oranges were used in many ways but not for making salad.
It was only when I grew up, and thanks to the people I met and the places I lived, that I added new pages to my recipe book and increased the number of preparations using oranges. And I started making winter salads with oranges.
Especially two are my favorite recipes.
Two winter salads from my repertoire.
Crispy fennel, oranges and olives, a great classic among Italian salads, for me this is “Carmen salad”. I associate this simple dish with a beautiful memory of friendship and good food shared. And to the occasion when I ate it for the first time.
Since then I have made it many, many times.
It’s a good recipe for each time I’m in a hurry, but I also like to make it to accompany a roast like roast beef.
The second salad is just as simple and tasty.
It is a recipe that I found among the yellowed pages of Eleonora’s notebooks (I tell about her, and about the luck of having a loving grandmother as well as several other almost-grandmothers, in the recipe for Lasagna goccia d’Oro). Born and raised in the countryside, in the kitchen she had taste and a fine hand.
Her notes included drizzling the apples with brandy and stirring with pieces of peeled orange. I imagined the salad as a side for an important roast and the power of that image inspired me for days.
Wanting to try the combo apples and oranges, a pair that could also pass for macedonia (fruit salad) I added crunchy walnuts from Romagna and a few flakes of parmigiano.
If you want a salad for lunch it is more complete, but if you intend to serve it during formal meal, try the simpler version.
Buona cucina, Monica
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Buy fennel specifying that it should be eaten ‘raw’, it is crispier.
Yellow or red oranges? Depends on taste, both are fine.
After peeling the oranges, try to remove the white part which is a little bitter.
Don’t forget to drizzle the apples with lemon juice.
Orange, Fennel And Olive Salad
2 small fennels
50 g olives
extra virgin olive oil and salt to taste
Wash the fennel and cut it into very thin slices.
Peel the orange, remove the white part, cut into wedges or slices, if you decide for slices cut thin slices.
Make the salad alternating fennel and orange slices.
Add the olives and dress with olive oil and salt.
Apple, Orange, Walnut and Parmigiano Salad
2 crisp apples
walnuts, about ten
Parmesan cheese flakes, 60g
juice of one lemon
Peel the apples, remove the core, cut into segments and drizzle with lemon juice.
Peel the oranges, remove the white membranes, cut each slice into 3 parts and add to the apples.
Also add the coarsely chopped walnuts and parmigiano flakes.
Season with olive oil and salt just before serving.