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Embrace the flavors of the season with Winter Fruit Salad

To quarter the apple, make four vertical slices around the core, then cut each quarter into slices. David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 3
Sarah's Winter Fruit Salad features Pink Lady apples, shaved fennel, celery, toasted walnuts and orange sections tossed with a minty cider vinaigrette. David Samson / Forum News Service2 / 3
Cut in between the orange sections and use the slices for the salad, then use the juice from the leftovers to brighten up the dressing. David Samson / Forum News Service3 / 3

FARGO — This week's Winter Fruit Salad showcases ingredients that are readily available in winter — like apples, oranges, fennel, walnuts, celery and fresh mint — to create a weekend brunch dish that is simple, elegant and delicious.

The apples are the star of this salad, and Pink Lady is my top choice for this recipe. Pink Lady apples are sweet, juicy and perfectly tart, and with their wonderful pink hue and firm, crisp texture, they bring flavor, color and substance to this dish.

To prepare the apples, use a sharp knife and make four vertical cuts around the apple, coming as close to the core as possible without including it. Then, cut each quarter into quarter-inch slices, leaving the peel on for added color and nutrition. I typically slice the apples just before serving the salad to prevent discoloring of their flesh, but you could prepare them up to four hours in advance and soak them in a mix of cold water and lemon juice for up to 3 to 4 hours.

This recipe calls for two oranges, and while navel oranges will work just fine, for this dish I've chosen a combination of cara cara and blood oranges, which are still available in our local markets. The oranges are cut into sections, which you can create by using a sharp paring knife to carefully remove the fruit from between each section of the orange. Don't worry if you end up leaving some fruit attached to the sections, as the remaining portion will be used to flavor the vinaigrette.

Fennel is one of my favorite winter ingredients, and for this dish I use a food mandolin to shave the fennel bulb into ultra-thin slices. With its signature anise flavor and subtle, peppery undertones, fennel is a great complement to the sweetness from the apples and oranges.

And, to bring a bit of crunch to this salad, I've added sliced celery and toasted walnut pieces. To round out the dish, I toss all of the ingredients with a minty cider vinaigrette using a ratio of 3 parts apple cider vinegar to 1 part extra virgin olive oil. The vinaigrette also includes Dijon mustard, a favorite of mine when it comes to making great dressing, as well as fresh mint, honey, garlic powder and the juice from the sectioned oranges.

I love the ease of this recipe, as most of the prep can be done even a day in advance of serving, save for the apples. The dressing can be made up to one week in advance and the acid from the citrus and vinegar will help keep the salad fresh for up about 2 to 3 days after making.

So, rather than bemoaning our never-ending, snow-filled winter, I'll gently encourage you to embrace the flavors of the season, instead, with this lovely, nutritious, easy to make and delicious Winter Fruit Salad.

Winter Fruit Salad

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

2 Pink Lady apples, cut into ¼-inch slices

1 fennel bulb, thinly shaved

2 stalks celery, cut on the bias (on the diagonal)

2 oranges, sectioned

1 cup walnut pieces, toasted

For the dressing

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

½ teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons honey

Pinch of garlic powder

Juice from leftover sectioned oranges

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a small bowl, prepare the dressing first by whisking together the oil, vinegar, mint, mustard, honey, garlic powder and orange juice until well combined.

Whisk in a half-teaspoon of salt and a quarter-teaspoon of black pepper; taste and add more seasoning as desired. Dressing may be made several days in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve. Makes about 1 cup.

In a medium bowl, add the sliced apple, fennel, celery, walnuts and orange sections. Just before serving, pour half of the dressing over the ingredients and toss gently until evenly coated. Add more dressing as necessary.

Transfer the salad to a shallow serving dish and enjoy. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

"Home with the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.

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