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Fennel salad can accompany winter’s comfort foods

Salad probably is not the first thing that comes to mind when you are planning a winter meal. Cold weather calls for hearty, belly-warming soups, stews and casseroles, of course. But to accompany those stick-to-your-ribs dishes, there is no better match than a salad made with seasonal produce – one that provides crisp, bright contrast and has substance enough to stand up to them.

This salad is a quintessential example, a combination of bold, fresh tastes and colors that come together as a perfect foil for a hot one-pot main course. The thinly sliced fennel at its base is cool and refreshing, but it is not shy like a tender spring lettuce. Rather, it provides a definitive anise flavor and a big crunch that plays off the sweet-tart juicy citrus, one of the season’s produce highlights.

This time of year, oranges are plump and perfect, and there is a remarkable variety to choose from. If you can find them, get blood oranges, whose flesh has a stunning red hue and a generous pucker. Cara Cara navel oranges, a bit sweeter and gloriously pink inside, are also a special treat. If neither of those is available, regular old navel oranges work just as well.

Salty olives and slices of red onion add punches of contrasting flavor, and a citrus vinaigrette ties it all together. Pair this salad with hearty Mediterranean-style stews, soups, bakes and braises, and it will brighten your day as much as the hot dish warms it.

Fennel Salad with Oranges and Olives

4 blood oranges (may substitute 3 Cara Cara or other navel oranges)

2 medium fennel bulbs, cored and thinly sliced, plus a few fronds reserved for garnish

½ cup pitted black olives, such as Kala mata or Sicilian cured olives, cut in half

œ cup thinly sliced red onion

3 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

œ teaspoon kosher salt

œ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cut the oranges into segments by slicing off the top and bottom of the fruit. Stand each orange on one end and cut downward, following the contour of the fruit, to remove the peel and white pith.

Working over a bowl, use a paring knife to cut the fruit segments from their membranes. Separate the juice and the segments, reserving both. (There should be about 2 tablespoons of juice.)

Combine the orange segments in a large bowl with the fennel, olives and red onion, tossing to incorporate.

Whisk together the reserved orange juice, the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a liquid measuring cup to form an emulsified dressing. Pour over the salad and toss gently to coat.

Garnish with the reserved fennel fronds. Serve right away.

Serves 6

Per serving: 130 calories, 2 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar.

Krieger’s most recent cookbook is “Weeknight Wonders: Delicious Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.