Over the years, I have learned to cook many strange fruits and vegetables. Strange to me, that is. In some parts of the world, such things as starfruit and lotus root are perfectly ordinary.
Anyhow, being a rather fanatical foodie, I'm interested in all members of the vegetable kingdom and forage for the unusual at my favorite produce market. It has expanded my culinary horizons to invite peculiar produce into my kitchen and see what I can make of it.
My inspiration might come from cookbooks, TV chefs, the Internet, or restaurant meals I have relished. My experiments aren't always successful, but sometimes they're stellar. Case in point: blood orange and fresh fennel salad. I've been enjoying it for years, since I ate a mind-blowing version one Spring afternoon at the birthplace of "California cuisine," Berkeley's Chez Panisse, which is now an all-organic (though not all-vegetarian) restaurant. [Speaking of splurges, this one is a must for serious foodies.]
If you can't find blood oranges, you can use tangerines or naval oranges instead. The salad will still be very, very good to eat. The one shown here includes no onion-y flavor note, but you can snip on some chives or sprinkle on some minced shallots, if you so desire. Sometimes I arrange a handful of Nicoise olives on the plate, as Chez Panisse did, which provides another delicious layer of flavor. Some shavings of Parmesan or a bit of crumbled blue or feta cheese are other great additions. Play around and see what you like.