fennel and citrus salad with mint

pretty on a plate with angels and the apocalypse ::::

Susan’s Ee’s best selling novel Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, Book 1)  starts out with an end of sorts, yet a beginning of more ominous and fantastic to come: Ironically, since the attacks, the sunsets have been glorious. Outside our condo window, the sky flames like a bruised mango in vivid orange, red, and purple. The clouds ignite with sunset colors, and I’m almost scared those of us caught below will catch on fire too. It sucked me in.

At first, I didn’t think I’d have time to read the book with my schedule. But I got sucked into the first five chapters (free on Susan’s website!) and was left hanging at a pivotal part. I’m sure I would stay up too late one night, trying to finish the book in one sitting, if I had it in hand. Instead, I did it over a course of three days. Angels have taken over humanity, an apocalypse, poised to demolish the world. These angels aren’t the sweet Precious Moments angels we see fluttering in our minds, but warriors against humanity. Some are murderers, some are warriors, some are righteous, some are even agnostic. The story revolves around the resourceful teenager Penryn, and her desperate attempt to retrieve her physically disabled sister Paige from the hands of kidnapper angels. Penryn makes a deal to accomplish this, a deal with an enemy. Raffe, the wounded warrior angel with whom she makes this deal, and Penryn travel through Northern California to the angel headquarters in San Francisco to rescue her sister. The dark journey is a test to both, and Raffe ultimately must be tested by his enemies to be healed. The book is set in Mountain View, California, my current home, so the landmark references give this fantastical world Susan has created even more realism and depth for me. (I felt the same when I read The Time Traveler’s Wife  by Audrey Niffenegger, set in Chicago in many neighborhoods I frequented in college, medical school, and residency training.) Plus, Penryn is such a badass, it’s hard not to want to emulate her if in crisis mode. The girl knows how to fight!

So Penryn starts her dark journey with a remark about sunsets. Like a sunset this salad is, with oranges and pinks, and wisps of greens falling into the darkening sky. I’ve seen many a sunset in my life, some of the most memorable in Maine in Salsbury Cove, near the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratories, where my father would work doing research and teaching students most summers. The piney corrugated mountains and the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman’s Bay were ever-present backdrops to these sunsets, the sky glowing every possible color before the sun dipped below the horizon and disappeared for the night. I would occasionally sit on the dock at the labs, watching this gradual color shift. I realized just how taken I was by these sunsets when I saw a pottery set in a local Bar Harbor store with the same color gradation of the crepuscular sky. It was a perfect representation of a perfect Maine sunset for me, while static and concrete. But I was too young and too thrifty to consider buying it. And what if I had? I wouldn’t want to use it. Where would I hang it? It seemed like an impractical idea for a teenager who’d rather buy clothes and makeup.

I am so entranced by a pretty picture popping with brightly colored vegetables and fruits, especially in those sunset colors. The photo was enough for me when I first found this recipe that I highlight today. The next day, I immediately bought the ingredients, sharpened my knife, and cleaned up the mandolin. Prep time is pretty quick (if you don’t have any child-related distractions) and easy to do during the ribs’ cooking time. The trick is the mandolin for very thinly sliced fennel. You can slice it with a knife, but it can be painstakingly slow to do, and you are at risk of an injury if you don’t have a good, sharp knife to get through the fibrous bulb of the fennel.

This is a lovely, light salad with a perfect balance of sweet, tangy, crunchy, and a little hint of salt. My only complaint, and mind you, this is pretty picky, is that my grapefruit were not ruby red grapefruit. I was lead to believe  I was buying one when the label said RED clearly. (Maybe a hint of the movie Red Dawn  to go with the theme of apocalypse and war?) False advertising! My plated sunset, alas, is a little more peachy than I remember in Maine. That’s the beauty of every sunset: each is different, in fantasy novels or summer skies. Eat and I plan to take the kids to Maine someday, when my parents are summering there. I expect it will be when Peach and Grub can actually sit and enjoy the sunset. Currently, sitting for any length of time is a rare occurrence for either of them, glowing with excitement for toys or art projects. And maybe Peach will be old enough to enjoy the now impending series of Ee’s Angelfall  books on the roadtrip to Maine!

fennel and citrus salad with mint
Recipe type: salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • 2 red grapefruits
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 2 fennel bulbs—halved, cored and thinly sliced on a mandolin, 2 tablespoons of chopped fronds reserved (I actually used less, because my fennel bulb wasn't blessed with much frond.)
  • 2 tablespoons small mint leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  1. Using a sharp knife, cut the skin and white pith from the grapefruits and oranges. Working over a bowl, cut between the membranes to release the sections into the bowl. Squeeze the membranes to extract the juice.
  2. In a small bowl, stir the olive oil with the honey and lemon juice. Add 3 tablespoons of the citrus juice and season with salt. Reserve the remaining citrus juice for another use (I drank it).
  3. In a shallow serving bowl, toss the fennel and citrus sections with the dressing. Garnish with the chopped fennel fronds (scanty, though they may be), mint leaves, and ground coriander and serve right away.

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