We are back from a spectacular few weeks in gorgeous and gritty Sicily. It has been over 10 years since I last visited and I fell in love with her all over again – the sea, the cities, Etna, the people, and of course – the amazing food. And yes, I even fell in love with the grittiness of it all (which doesn’t seem to have changed a whole bunch from when I spent a lot of time there in the late 90s.) It is all wrapped up in what Sicily is. From Palermo to Etna; the fish markets to the glorious wines; the smell of the blue, blue sea to the beauty of the Sicilians – my heart is full (and so is my notebook!) Much more on our trip in next week’s newsletter 💛.
But for now, I wanted to share what is quite possibly my favorite recipe from our trip. We spent a day in the seaside town of Ortigia. This charming town is absolutely on my ‘go back to spend more time here’ list. It is a magical little town with its sprawling Piazza Duomo, which faces the 7th century Duomo di Siracusa – the perfect spot for people-watching over a frosty granita or espresso ✅. They have a delightful morning market, filled with stall after stall of local fruit, vegetables, and the freshest of fish. The vendors, as we saw in Palermo, call out as you walk by – hoping to entice you to stop to sample their offerings. Yet this market feels a bit different – the proximity to North Africa is felt in the vendors with tables overflowing with baskets and boxes of colorful spices, sundried tomatoes of all sizes, gorgeous sun-dried tomato paste, and plump, fat olives and salt-packed capers piled high.
Once our arms were laden with more bags than we could carry, we spied an unassuming restaurant just off the market that was largely filled with Italians. The menu was a straightforward affair with mostly classic Sicilian entrees. On the menu, I spied what I thought would be a familiar Sicilian orange-fennel salad; perfect to go with my swordfish entree. I was expecting the classic salad that we had grown up with – thick slices of oranges mixed with fennel, black olives, and occasionally anchovies.
But what arrived was something so refreshingly different – a beautiful tangle of oranges with subtle additions of thinly sliced red onion and fennel, studded with capers and perfectly seasoned with the bite of fresh olive oil, Sicilian oregano, mint, and pink peppercorns. Sitting atop were a few briny olive oil-packed anchovies. Oh my…what had we here? This salad was an entirely different ballgame. The oranges were the star of this salad and so simply yet exquisitely flavored. All of the food was delicious but we agreed that THIS salad was the highlight of the meal. 💛 Joey and I spent the better part of the time discussing the salad – its ingredients, the ratios, and most importantly, how to recreate this at home.
I have been back less than a week and have made this salad twice already. It is super simple but for me, the ratios are key. Let the oranges shine and use a bit of restraint on the fennel and onion. The addition of capers, oregano (Sicilian if you can find it), and mint make the oranges sing. The unusual addition of the pink peppercorns is brilliant, adding a nice subtle kick of flavor from time to time. This salad would also be spectacular with blood oranges but they are not available in our markets yet. I used a combination of navel and cara cara oranges. I also recommend eating this salad on the same day as it is made so the oranges are at their freshest.
Enjoy this little burst of sunshine – be back next week with more on our trip (and some fun news!)
Tanti baci, xx
The most delicious orange salad ever! The oranges are the star in this simple salad supported by fennel, red onion, capers, oregano, and mint.
- 6 medium oranges, preferably a mixture of oranges (blood, navel, Cara Cara)
- ½ small fennel bulb
- ½ medium red onion
- 1 tablespoon brine-packed capers
- 10 fresh mint leaves, torn
- 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Sicilian
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 oil-packed anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
1. Peel and cut the oranges: Using a small serrated or paring knife, cut a slice of peel off of the top and bottom of the orange to allow it to sit flat on the cutting surface. Cutting from the top to the bottom of the orange, cut away the peel following the curve of the fruit. Try to remove only the peel and white pith, leaving as much of the flesh of the orange intact. Cut away any remaining pieces of pith. Cut the orange in half and remove any pith from the center. Cut the orange halves into small bite-sized segments. Place segments in a bowl. Repeat for each orange.
2. Trim away the core of the fennel bulb. Very thinly slice the fennel and onion crosswise. Cut the fennel and onion slices into half again so you have bite-sized segments. Add the fennel and onion to the bowl.
3. Add in the capers, mint leaves, peppercorns, oregano, salt, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Drizzle the olive oil over the salad. Toss gently to combine. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
4. Top with the anchovies (if using). Sprinkle with a few additional pink peppercorns, more dried oregano, and a few grinds of black pepper. Serve.
- Use a mix of your favorite oranges. I used navel and Cara Cara. Blood oranges also work beautifully in this salad if you can find them.
- Serve this salad immediately (or soon after tossing). The oranges are at their freshest when first cut.
- Don’t skip the peppercorns if possible – they add a beautiful subtle flavor kick to the salad.