Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shaved Fennel Salad

Shaved Fennel Salad in Small White Bowl, Overhead View

This Simple, Lemony Starter is Perfect for Cold Weather

Produce crops have been hit hard by a cold snap in California and Arizona.  Lettuces seem to be particularly affected.  Here in St. Louis, lettuce prices have increased by a good 50%.  So if you want a salad, maybe you should think outside the box (or the bin). 

Luckily, other salad-friendly veggies are available.  Like fennel, which reaches its peak in cold weather, and seems to be in good supply. 

Fennel has a subtle anise-like flavor that adapts well to a range of dishes.  For example, we recently featured it in our posts on Fennel Soup with Shrimp and Beans and Braised Fennel.

Though fennel is delicious when cooked, many people think it’s even better eaten raw. Dress it up with some extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, and you’ve got a piquant salad that’s the perfect starter for a meal.

So forget about the lettuce shortage! When life hands you lemons, squeeze them and use the juice to dress this terrific salad.


Shaved Fennel Salad on Plate, with Fork and Napkin

Recipe:  Shaved Fennel Salad

When eaten raw, I think fennel bulbs taste and look better if they’re shaved (sliced) thinly.  I use a mandoline, but a vegetable slicer — which is basically the same thing — also works well.   Or you can use a sharp knife, preferably one with a thin blade, although getting uniformly thin slices will be a bit of a challenge.  BTW, a mandoline has an incredibly sharp blade (think razor blade), so be really careful when using it.  I always use the guard that comes with it.

The dressing for this salad is essentially a vinaigrette made with lemon juice instead of vinegar.  I toss the shaved fennel with oil, then add lemon juice and toss again, and finally add the seasonings. This method seems to coat the shaved fennel with less oil than is required when I mix up a vinaigrette (I talk more about this technique in my post on Spinach Salad with Parmesan.) But if you prefer, you can just whisk the oil, lemon juice, and seasonings together, and then toss with the fennel.

This recipe takes about 10 minutes to prepare, and serves 4. You can clean and slice the fennel several hours ahead of time and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, and then toss with the dressing just before serving. Leftovers don’t keep well, so make only what you need.

Ingredients
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs (a bit over a pound)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ to 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • green fennel fronds for garnish (optional)
Procedure
  1. Rinse off the fennel and remove the stalks and green tops.  Roughly chop some of the green fuzzy fronds, and reserve them for garnish (optional).  Using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, slice off the root end of the bulb.  Cut or peel off the outer part of the bulb if it’s tough.  Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise.
  2. Using a mandoline or vegetable slicer, shave the fennel into paper thin slices (lengthwise).  If you don’t have a mandoline or slicer, use a sharp knife and cut as thinly as possible.
  3. Place sliced fennel in a mixing bowl, then add extra virgin olive oil and toss until the fennel slices are thoroughly coated (start with a tablespoon of oil, adding more if needed.)
  4. Add ½ tablespoon of lemon juice and toss to thoroughly coat the fennel slices.  Taste, and add more lemon juice if necessary (I find that a ratio of about 2:1 olive oil to lemon juice usually works best).
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add parsley (if using) and toss just to incorporate all the ingredients.
  6. Plate, and serve with a garnish of fennel fronds or chopped parsley.
Shaved Fennel Salad on Plate, with Fork and Napkin

Notes
  • You could probably substitute a good wine vinegar for the lemon juice.  I’ve never tried it with this salad, but it sounds appetizing.
  • Because you’ll definitely be tasting the flavor of the oil in this salad (as you do in most salads), you should use good quality extra virgin olive oil.
  • Or you could substitute another lightly flavored oil, such as walnut oil.
  • Fresh herbs or parsley make a good addition to this salad.  I suggest a teaspoon or two of fresh thyme or dill, or 2 to 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley.
  • I’ve seen similar fennel salads that include shaved Parmesan cheese or raw mushrooms.  If you want a slightly more substantial salad, those ideas might be worth a try.
  • Fennel combines well with seafood of any kind, with poultry, and with most meats (especially pork).  It also plays well with highly seasoned cuisines, such as Chinese or Indian.  So this salad is an ideal starter for a wide range of main courses.
  • Fennel is called finocchio in Italian, fenouil in French, Fenchel in German, and hinojo in Spanish.  But by any name, it’s good stuff.
Shaved Fennel Salad on Black Acrylic

Kung Fennel

“What a great salad!” Mrs. Kitchen Riffs enthused.  “Such simple, clean flavor!”

“Yeah, I’m glad we finally got around to using more fennel,” I said.  “As we discussed in our post on Braised Fennel, there are so many veggies that we rarely cook with, simply because we get in a rut. So every January or February, I like to pick a veggie that’s either new to us or rarely used, and learn new recipes for it. Kind of a New Year’s resolution, I guess.”

“That Braised Fennel was great,” said Mrs K R. “As was the Fennel Soup with Shrimp and Beans. What other fennel dishes are we doing?”

“I’m still trying to decide,” I admitted.  “There are so many possibilities!  But we’ll be doing a couple next week, including a great pasta dish with fennel and shrimp.”

“The shrimp dish is timely,” observed Mrs K R, “since many people eat more fish during Lent.”

“Right, today’s Ash Wednesday, so I figure that by next week, people will be looking for a new seafood dish to try,” I said.  “That’s part of my high-level blogging strategy, you see.”

“Glad you’re sharpening your strategic skills,” said Mrs K R, with a grin.  “Maybe you should work on martial arts next.  With lettuce prices the way they are, we may need to dodge pitchforks in the produce department.”

That’s Mrs K R.  Always practical.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Fennel Soup with Shrimp and Beans
Braised Fennel
Chopped Kale Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing
Spinach Salad with Parmesan
Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing
Hungarian Cucumber Salad
Summer Pasta Salad
Tuna Pasta Salad
BLT Salad
Chef's Salad
Edamame and Bean Salad
White Bean and Tuna Salad
Roast Strawberry Salad
Salade Niçoise
Creamy Cole Slaw
Garlic Coleslaw
Pineapple, Coconut, and Carrot Salad

70 comments:

  1. Simple and tasty salad! I don't use enough fennel in my life!

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    1. Hi Natalie, this salad really does have a lot of flavor, and it's difficult to find one that's easier than this. Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Just used fennel the other day. I roasted it and then placed a piece of baked salmon on top. Very good. I used fresh orange zest and juice to give it some flavor. Love it!

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    1. Hi Abbe, roast fennel is wonderful, and it pairs well with any fish I've ever had. Salmon sounds delish. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. I don't think I'm in a rut so much as just not one who typically thinks of using fennel unless it's specifically called for in a recipe I'm trying. I guess that approach needs to change right? This looks so simple and elegant; what is there not to love?

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    1. Hi Barb, rut might be the wrong word, but you know what I mean. ;-) It's truly a nice, simple dish, with tons of flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  4. A simple lovely salad with the freshest if flavors. Very nice!

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    1. Hi Vicki, it's great - something I think you'd really like. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Sorry to hear about your lettuce shortage and the high prices but you have adapted well and this fennel salad does look stunning. I use a mandolin too but you have to be careful there! xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, oh we're still buying, just paying more! And you're right that you have to be careful about your fingers when using one of those infernal devices! I'm always super careful, and use the guard. Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Such a simple but effective salad :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Uru, it's quite nice with incredibly fresh flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Wow, that sucks about the price increases! I haven't been seeing that here but we have a lot of local produce. Great salad!

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    1. Hi Alyssa, isn't that price increase disgusting? Good thing this salad is so good that we can substitute it! Thanks for your comment.

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  8. I never used Fennel as such in salads, even though I use the fennel seeds a lot in Indian preparations. I simply love dressings with lemon flavor and I am sure when paired with Fennel will be yummy. Besides it is healthy too!!!

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    1. Hi Shibi, it's worth trying fennel in salad sometime. Very popular in Italy, among other places. Thanks for the comment.

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  9. I'm glad to see fennel pop up on your blog again. It is one of my favourite raw vegetables and I seldom eat it with anything but the simplest of dressings. Funnily enough, I always dress our salads, the way you mentioned - oil, then lemon or vinegar and salt and pepper. I never mix them beforehand.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, it takes a bit more time to toss a salad that way, but I think you get better flavor than when you make a separate dressing, and usually you use less dressing too. Plus I think it tastes better! Thanks for the comment.

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  10. What a great idea , Fennel is such a tasty, healthy veggie.
    Love the picture and presentation, very classy !

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    1. Hi Daniela, it's such tasty stuff, isn't it? It's become a real favorite of mine. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  11. I love how simple and healthy your recipe is! I love fennel, but it is too small and expensive here in Charlotte.....which bums me out! Thank you for sharing such a fun recipe, Take care, Terra

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    1. Hi Terra, the good thing about fennel is a little goes a long way, so sometimes you don't need as much. But it does tend to be a bit on the pricey side. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. I love fennel. Some people seem to dislike it and I can't seem to wrap my head around why.

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    1. Hi Kim, doesn't fennel have a great flavor? I does have a bit of an anise flavor, which some people don't like, but the flavor isn't that strong and I find it lovely. Thanks for the comment.

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  13. Throughout WInter, Dad would bring home fennel but the case and we ate it raw in place of a salad. To this day, if I'm going to use some in a recipe, I'll buy extra to snack on while I'm at work in the kitchen. Your salad, John, would have gone over very well back home. The fennel maintains it's crispness and the dressing is simple. No need to gild the lily. l can't wait to give this a try. I may actually get away with buying a single bulb this time. :)
    Thanks for a great recipe and idea.

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    1. Hi John, I've known a lot of people who like to eat this raw - sometimes for a before dinner salad, sometimes as an end-of-dinner palate refresher. And I snack on it when I'm cutting it up too! But I tend to prefer fennel served with a dressing when raw, and I think it's even tastier when cooked. Thanks for your comment.

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  14. This one looks so simple and fresh !
    Delicious

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    1. Hi Sketched Chef, it really is a nice, easy dish. And, as you say, delicious! Thanks for the comment.

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  15. A beautiful crunchy and light salad. However, I just cringed when you said the word mandolin! I cannot emphasize the word "be careful" when using this device after 2 trips to the emergency room and weeks of pain, I am finally healed! Happy Valentines Day! BAM

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    1. Hi Bam, good point re the mandoline - I just updated my post with a note to warn people to be careful. (I always use the guard that comes with it - wimpy, I know, but the thing is scary without the guard.) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. I was going to make a comment about the mandoline, but after reading your latest commenter's note, I have to reiterate that I'm completely terrified about using one! I don't think it's wimpy to use a guard - I actually think it's brave to have one in your house at all. Regardless, your salad looks lovely, and I'm starting to wonder if I could make it look as attractive if the fennel was shaved by hand.

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    1. Hi Beth, unless you use a mandoline all the time - which means almost none of us - they can be intimidating. I'm always super aware when I'm using it, because I really don't want to cut my finger. They are super sharp! And I'll bet you could make the fennel attractive shaving it by hand, it'd just be tedious. I'm pretty good at using the knuckles of the hand holding whatever I'm chopping to guide the knife blade, and I can do it. But it takes me at least 5 times as long as using the mandoline (and that includes cleaning it and putting it away), so that's what I do. Thanks for hyour comment.

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  17. What a fabulous simple salad! I love the lemon vinaigrette with the raw fennel. It's perfect! I love fennel cooked and raw, but Bobby isn't a big fan of raw fennel. Maybe if I add a thinly sliced apple then we can both enjoy it. The market had lot of fennel this other day, so I need to add it to my list! Thanks!!!

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    1. Hi MJ, I'll bet apple in this salad would be dandy. In fact, I'll give it a try someday. My market has been having a lot of really good looking fennel lately too (which is one reason I've been cooking with it a lot lately). Thanks for your comment.

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  18. I think they taste better, too, when shaved thin. The crunch comes out so much more. I love fennel, especially raw.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, I agree about the crunch! And although I like the mild anise flavor of fennel, it seems even milder when the slices are cut thin. Thanks for the comment.

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  19. I have never brought fennel...now I know I would be able to manage it...great recipe John, I love the simplicity of it. Like the idea of freshly squeezed lemon juice...yum!
    Hope you are having a fun week!

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    1. Hi Juliana, this is such a great salad. It's totally perfect right before a fish course (great before other things too, but fennel and fish or seafood really shine together). And isn't lemon a nice flavor? Freshly squeezed is the only way to go! Thanks for the comment.

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  20. I have never eaten fennel before, but I do have to say your fennel salad looks very tempting.

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    1. Hi Dawn, it's always fun to try new things. ;-) It's really good - I think you'd enjoy. Thanks for the comment.

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  21. i have used fennel seeds in some of my indian recipes but not shaved fennel.
    using it in a salad is a great idea ...it must have added a particularly nice aroma ...

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    1. Hi Abeer, the fennel bulb isn't as strongly flavored as the fennel seeds, although it still has a lovely mild anise flavor. And the aroma, as you suggest, is quite nice too! Thanks for the comment.

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  22. A delightful and tasty salad! I love using fennel in that way. A great and healthy starter dish.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, doesn't fennel make a wonderful salad? Definitely a nice start to almost any meal. Thanks for the comment.

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  23. I love the crunch of raw fennel and the lovely anise flavor. The lemon vinaigrette sounds delightful with it!

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    1. Hi Lisa, the crunchiness of this salad is wonderful! And lemon works so well with the flavor of fennel. Thanks for the comment.

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  24. I think we are both in the simple frame of mind. I was thinking a server was pulling my leg the other day when she said they had to start charging for the usually free salad because of lettuce prices, good to know. I love fennel, cooked or raw. Would probably bring Spring on faster too, huh. Hope you and the Mrs. has a lovely Valentine's.
    -Gina-

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    1. Hi Gina, I'm still buying lettuce, but I wince every time I see the price. :-( Since you like fennel, you'll definitely like this. Thanks for the good Valentine's wishes (we did! and hope you did too), and also the comment.

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  25. Love your photos. I enjoy fennel whether it is raw or cooked. A simple dressing like you used lets the flavor shine through.

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    1. Hi Karen, I agree that fennel is mighty good whether cooked or raw. Thanks for your kind words, and the comment.

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    1. Hi Judy, isn't this so lovely? Thanks for your comment.

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  27. Whenever I pass fennel in the produce department now, I always think of your blog! One of these days I'm definitely going to have to step up and just buy it; I know TJ's has it in convenient packages, and it just sounds so healthy!

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    1. Hi Ala, it really is healthy, not to mention delish! Once you start using it you'll find tons of ways you want to try it - it's really wonderful. Thanks for the comment.

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  28. Great post John! I always love your conversations with Mrs.K.R.! Yeah, sometimes I just get so bored with lettuce based salads. But I never considered eating fennel raw. I guess I've only had it in cooked dishes, and I love it. I will definitely give this a try. But I am very much looking forward to your shrimp and fennel dish! : )

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    1. Hi Anne, I love fennel in cooked dishes, but it may be at its best raw, with some sort of dressing (some people eat it without the dressing). This salad is such a nice dish, and it really is an interesting change up from lettuce. Thanks for the comment.

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  29. Great recipe! I have to admit I have never tried fennel before. Now I have a recipe to try with it, yay! It looks so fresh and delicious.

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    1. Hi Kristi, it's really great stuff, plus pretty healthy - what's not to like? ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  30. I see fennel all the time and never think to pick it up. I don't know why not - it's affordable and very tasty. This is a terrific salad idea. I like the idea of having it as a side with salmon. It would seem like a good combination of flavors. Have a good weekend. :)

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    1. Hi Kristi, this would go so well with salmon. Fennel is also pretty low in calories, another of its many virtues! Thanks for the comment.

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  31. Mmmm, fennel salad is one of my favorite uses of fennel! Too bad it's not readily available in this parts of the country. I now know why it's called "food desert".

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    1. Hi Marina, too bad you can't find fennel! Soon, I hope, you'll live someplace where it's readily available. Thanks for the comment.

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  32. I'm going to admit something awful, I've never really liked fennel or cooked with it too much before, but with a simple recipe like this it looks like you can't really go wrong. I should give it another go! Thanks for posting!

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    1. Hi Christine, this is really a nice starter. Great flavor, and the slight anise flavor of the fennel combines well with the lemon - it almost becomes a different vegetable. Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Somebody here is going through a fennel trip. ^.^ hey I can't blame you its a great kitchen ingredient, but I feel its more one of those ingredients that never manage to grab the limelight, although as you mentioned above its used in different cuisines. Your shots look great!

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    1. Hi Helene, fennel is definitely being featured in several recipes! So I'm definitely on a trip. ;-) Such good stuff, isn't it? Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  34. That's interesting - the oil addition process you use, I'll have to give it a shot. I really do need to try this salad to really judge fennel on it's own, I've only had it in other dishes.

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    1. Hi Food Jaunts, the oil addition process works really well for simple dressings: oil, acid, seasonings, and herbs. The more complicated a salad dressing, the easier it probably is to mix the dressing. Thanks for the comment.

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  35. I'm pretty sure all these fennel bulb recipe is especially for me! :D As I told you before, they are always stored in my refrigerator. I'm so happy to find another recipe to use them for!

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    1. Hi Nami, they are for you! ;-) Fennel has such a wonderful taste and I love all the ways you can use it. Thanks for the comment.

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