Thursday, February 14, 2013


Can you believe this was my first time making a raw fennel salad at home? I fell in love with cooked fennel a couple of years ago, and shaved fennel has been a restaurant menu trend for a while, and I know that in its raw state it’s crisp and less licorice-tasting, yet still I delayed, believing, perhaps, that it would be a hard sell to A, or just feeling too lazy to slice something paper-thin. Then, while dining out, I had a salad that included fennel, and what do you know, it was incredibly delicious, and an obsession was born. I bookmarked about a million (or, you know, four) tantalizing-looking fennel salad recipes, but settled on this one from The Purple Foodie for my inaugural attempt because it’s otherwise quite similar to other salads I’ve made and enjoyed. You can’t go wrong with apples, greens, walnuts, cheese, and lemon vinaigrette, and it turns out that fennel fits in beautifully.

I really loved this salad, and I think A enjoyed it too. The fennel flavor is subtle, but its juicy crunch makes its presence felt and echoes the texture of the apple. I chose arugula as a base (the original recipe just called for salad greens), and its peppery flavor was perfect with the sweet apple, herby fennel, tart lemon, toasty nuts, and salty cheese. I threw some Dijon into the dressing, because that’s what I usually do with lemon vinaigrettes, and it did not go amiss. For some reason, the Parmesan shavings were a big revelation to me here, and in fact, a stripped-down version of this salad, just arugula with sliced apple, walnuts, shaved Parmesan, and lemon vinaigrette, has become my favorite side dish of the moment, because I almost always have those ingredients on hand. But that’s not to say that the fennel version isn’t worthwhile; I’ve already made that one twice. In other words, this is on its way to becoming one of my go-to winter salads.

1 large fennel bulb
2 medium apples (I used Fuji)
4 handfuls baby arugula
4 tablespoons shaved Parmesan
4 tablespoons toasted walnuts
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Cut the fennel bulb in half vertically (through the trimmed shoots to the base), then cut each half in half vertically again. Cut out and discard the hard core at the base of each fennel quarter. Place each piece of fennel on a cutting board, flat surface down, and slice it diagonally starting from the base, making sure to keep the slices as thin as possible (or use a mandolin if you have one).

2. Quarter and core the apple, then cut it into thin slices.

3. Place the sliced fennel and apple in a bowl, making sure to separate the ones that are stuck together, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and lemon zest.

4. Add the arugula, walnuts, and Parmesan to the bowl and toss together.

5. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly.

Serves: 4
Time: 15 minutes
Leftover potential: OK, although I haven’t quite figured out the best approach; the first time, I had a smallish fennel bulb and made kind of a mess of slicing it up, ending up with only enough for two servings (the original recipe says it serves 2 to 3, so that didn’t surprise me). Since I had extras of all the other ingredients, when it came time for leftovers I just made the salad without the fennel, which, as mentioned above, was just dandy. The second time around, I just cut up half the fennel bulb and one of the apples to make two servings of salad to eat right away, and then the next day I cut up the rest of the fennel bulb (which I’d wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a baggie in the fridge) and the other apple, basically just making the other two servings of salad from scratch (except the dressing, which I’d stored in the fridge). That worked fine but was a bit more labor-intensive. I suspect you could simplify things by mixing up all the ingredients except the arugula and storing that in the refrigerator, then just dolloping some of that atop some greens whenever you felt like eating.

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