Citrus and Arugula Salad with Marcona Almonds and Fennel

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An elegant salad of arugula, shaved fennel, marcona almonds, olives and in season citrus. 

Twenty-nine is a weird age.  With thirty looming just around the corner, I often feel like I’m stuck between two distinct phases of life.

Some days I feel really young.  Like, college freshman young.  When I look back through my Clemson scrapbooks, I see the same girl, just with bad clothes and streaky highlights.
Other times I feel old.  On Fridays, all I want to do is curl up on the couch with my husband, my puppies and my wine.  After about an hour, an air of youthful restlessness hits and I realize, “Wait a second!  I'm only twenty-nine!  I need to be out on the town!”  So, I throw myself together and we head down to our neighborhood bar to meet with friends.  The scene is mostly mid-to-upper twentysomethings, but every so often, a group of USC students show up.  When I see when they’re wearing, I feel like I might as well be in mom jeans and a scrunchie.  Back to feeling old.

Looking to my friends for guidance is no help at all.  Some are on their second child.  Others have one-night stands.  Some have settled into successful careers, own homes and new cars.  Others struggle to pay rent.

Looking back at my expectations of life at thirty gives me a good giggle.  Luckily, I’m mostly on par with my career goals.  But socially?  Woah, I was off.  I thought my life would be a spinoff of Carrie Bradshaw's. I would attend art gallery openings on the weekend, perfectly dressed in a little black designer dress - totally affordable at the age of thirty, on a dietitian's salary no less.  My friends and I would linger at quiet wine bars over a glass of syrah and a an intellectual conversation on foreign affairs.  I would throw fancy, four-course dinner parties and serve dishes like quail stuffed with fresh figs and proscuitto, buckwheat blini with creme fraiche and caviar and finish with a perfectly plated individual cheese course.

In actuality, weekends consist of weddings, showers and Clemson football.  Wine is often involved in social events, but it's usually of the what's on sale at Trader Joe's variety.  Conversations often gravitate more towards Kim Kardashians latest ventures than anything of substance.  And those dinner parties?  They tend to be more of the potluck variety.

If I were to throw a real dinner party, this is exactly the salad I would make.  It has a perfect contrast of color, texture and flavor.  To up the fancy factor by a few degrees, look for blood oranges.  If you really are serving this for a dinner party and not eating it in front of your TV while watching Homeland, mix and plate the arugula, fennel and red onion in advance and top with the other ingredients before serving.  Now, don't you think this would look perfect on that Kate Spade china that I never even registered for?

 

Citrus and Arugula Salad with Marcona Almonds and Fennel
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: 4 to 8
Adapted from [url href="http://authenticsuburbangourmet.blogspot.com/2010/03/blood-orange-fennel-and-marcona-almond.html" target="_blank"]Authentic Suburban Gourmet[/url]
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seed, lightly crushed
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • 4 mixed oranges
  • 1 bulb of fennel, halved and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 8 cups arugula
  • 1/3 cup marcona almonds
  • 8 kalamata olives, chopped
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, fennel seed and orange zest. Set aside.
  2. Cut the top and bottom off each orange so you have a flat surface for cutting. Using a sharp paring knife, cut down the curved side of each orange to remove the peel, while leaving as much of the pulp intact. Cut each orange into ¼-inch rounds.
  3. Place the arugula in a large bowl. Add the fennel and red onion, toss to combine. Divide the salad among the plates. Top with sliced orange. Sprinkle with almonds and olives.
  4. Whisk together the flavored oil and sherry vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and top with another crack of black pepper, and maybe some truffle salt if you’ve got it, since you know, this is for a fancy dinner party and all.