Inspired by a classic Sicilian recipe, this colorful Grapefruit Fennel Salad is the perfect combination of bright, mellow, sour, and salty.
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Did you know I love citrus fruits so much I wrote an entire cookbook AND two eBooks (one sweet, and one savory) about them? I simply love cooking and baking with citrus fruits: they’re so bright, colorful, aromatic, and versatile! I experiment with them constantly, and during my first cookbook’s recipe testing process more specifically, I tasted ALL the citrus fruits that came my way. I experimented with so many flavor combinations and some of them were real revelations! The pairing of grapefruit and parmesan is one of those. It may sound unusual, but it makes perfect sense when you taste it.
This Grapefruit Fennel Salad was inspired by a classic Sicilian recipe that usually features blood oranges instead of grapefruit. I wanted to find a way to serve this salad year-round (blood oranges are only available in winter), so I was trying to find a suitable substitute. Regular oranges are slightly less acidic than blood oranges and would make the salad too sweet. I thought of grapefruit, which I thought would kick the salad’s interest levels way high. Boy, was I right! This grapefruit fennel salad would wake up the drowsiest taste buds. The combination of zesty grapefruit, mellow parmesan, and crunchy fennel is simply irresistible.
I like to add greens to the salad to make this grapefruit fennel salad more substantial and you can play with different types, depending on whether you want to add a subtle or more assertive flavor to the dish. Mâche, pea shoots, and baby spinach play a mellow supporting role, whereas watercress and arugula add a peppery, slightly bitter taste that works really well with grapefruit.
Quick ingredient note: To make the very best version of this grapefruit fennel salad, make sure to use freshly shaved, aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (as opposed to pre-grated parmesan cheese). “Parmigiano-Reggiano” is a protected designation of origin and you can recognize the cheese by its beige-yellow stamped edge. The cheese has a distinct nutty flavor and a dry, brittle texture dotted with salty, crunchy bits. Once you taste authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano, you can’t go without it! It’s a bit pricey, but it keeps for a long time well-wrapped in the fridge. Plus, with such a flavorful cheese, a little goes a long way! A simple dish like this grapefruit fennel salad is the perfect way to showcase a quality ingredient like Parmigiano-Reggiano.
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