This arugula salad with orange vinaigrette has bright, sweet, and crunchy elements, making it an excellent palate cleanser to rich foods. Eat it all year to brighten up a Sunday gravy or grilled ribeye, or keep it light with a pile of simple grilled chicken. I'm partial to eating this light, fresh salad after my main course.
Arugula, or "rocket", is a delightfully light and wispy salad green that tastes somewhat peppery and slightly bitter. It's one of my favorite greens to use as a salad base because of how flavorful it is.
Arugula's peppery, lemony flavor pairs perfectly with a sweet vinaigrette. To make the vinaigrette, first supreme an orange and place its segments in the salad. Then, combine the remaining orange juice with white balsamic and olive oil to make a vinaigrette. See my Tok Tok tutorial on how to supreme an orange!
Additionally, arugula has almost no crunch at all, so it welcomes the addition of fennel-- finocchio in Italian-- a very crunchy vegetable with a slightly medicinal taste. I find its flavor similar to anise, licorice, and even celery. If you're not familiar with fennel, I highly suggest buying some and using it in your cooking.
For example, you might slice the bulb into salads like this one or dice it up to use in place of onions in pasta sauces. My recipe for Spicy Vodka Sauce with Peas also calls for sautéing diced fennel, so you can buy one fennel build and use it two ways! Fennel's tasty fronds can also act as an herbaceous garnish for soups and pasta dishes.
Fennel and onion have some similarities, but are different enough that one without the other makes this salad less delicious. While testing the recipe, I decided that either red or white onion works well in this salad. You can decide which type to use based on your color preference. For instance, use white onion to achieve a more monochromatic look and milder taste. For more contrast and slightly stronger flavor, use a red onion.
Finally, the remaining element of this arugula salad with orange vinaigrette is something nutty. Parmesan is nutty and happens to be one of my favorite salad ingredients. When finely grated it helps bind the dressing to the lettuce. On the other hand, shaved parmesan has more of a bite and keeps the salad looking clean and elegant. You choose!
Salad as a Palate Cleanser
It's not uncommon in many Italian or Italian American households to eat salad after the main course. You may think salad wouldn't be so appealing after eating a full meal, but I'm here to disagree with that assumption. The light arugula, sweet citrus, and crunchy fennel in this salad combine to form the palate cleanser. It's almost like eating dessert... almost.Print
- 6 oz arugula
- 1 orange
- 1-2 oz red or white onion, thinly sliced
- ½ of a fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1oz parmesan cheese, shaved or coarsely grated
- ⅛ cup Olive oil
- ⅛ cup white balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Plate arugula in a large salad serving bowl. Slice the fennel and onion and arrange over the arugula.
- Supreme 1 orange and add segments to the salad, then squeeze the juice from of the remaining membranes into a small bowl.
- Add the olive oil and white balsamic vinegar to the bowl with the orange juice, season with pinches of salt and pepper, and whisk to combine.
- Top salad with shaved parmesan (use a vegetable peeler to shave the parmesan cheese) and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss to combine when ready to eat it.