It’s “shoulder season” in our part of the world. We’re still getting good-quality winter produce, and just starting to see spring favorites.
So this salad celebrates late-season fennel and apples. We mix them with celery and a lemony vinaigrette, then top it off with succulent smoked salmon.
It’s the beginning of a great company meal. And maybe a beautiful food friendship.
This recipe requires only a few ingredients. But the resulting flavor is complex and well balanced. As a starter, it provides just the right amount of sharpness and texture to whet your appetite for the main course.
Prep time for this dish is about 10 minutes. Assembly time adds another 5 minutes.
This recipe yields 4 first-course servings.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- a few pinches of kosher salt (to taste; see Notes)
- a few grinds of black pepper (to taste)
- 2 small fennel bulbs, quartered, cored, and sliced thinly (see Notes)
- 2 to 3 ribs celery, cut into slices of about ¼ inch
- 1 (or 2, if you prefer) apples, cored and sliced thinly
- 4 to 6 ounces smoked salmon slices
- lemon slices for garnish (very optional)
- First, make the vinaigrette: In a small lidded container, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Shake vigorously to combine. Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, then set aside. (You can prepare the vinaigrette several hours ahead and store it in the refrigerator if you wish).
- Add the sliced fennel, celery, and apples to a mixing bowl. Toss to combine. Add the vinaigrette and toss again to combine.
- Distribute the mixture on serving plates. Top each plate with a slice or two of smoked salmon. Add slices of lemon for garnish if you wish. Serve and enjoy.
- Exact measurements are not critical for this recipe. So adjust to your own taste.
- We sometimes add a couple tablespoons of minced parsley to the salad for extra flavor (add it in Step 2).
- Instead of smoked salmon, you could use smoked trout.
- If you want to go vegan, substitute about ½ to 1 cup toasted nuts for the salmon (walnuts work particularly well).
- We sometimes add a few green fennel fronds for garnish instead using lemon slices. More often, we leave the garnish off altogether – the smoked salmon adds enough visual interest.
- Sliced fennel and apples can discolor if prepared too far in advance. So we usually slice them immediately before making the salad, or within half an hour of doing so.
- If you want to prepare the fennel and apples ahead of time, you can sprinkle some lemon juice on the slices to avoid browning. If you go this route, you may want to add a bit more olive oil to the vinaigrette (to keep the flavors in balance).
- We like to use flavorful Honeycrisp apples in this dish. Golden Delicious apples are also a good choice (their flavor is nothing like that of the rather insipid Red Delicious). A bonus with Golden Delicious apples is that, when sliced, they don’t discolor as quickly as some other varieties. But use whatever type of apple you like.
- Cutting the slices of the fennel and apple on the thinner side makes for a better dish. A mandoline is the perfect tool for this. But we usually don’t bother with it, and just use a knife instead – one less thing to wash up.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half the amount we recommend. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Yum, my kind of apple a day,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Glad you got around to making this.”
“Apple-solutely,” I said. “I finally crossed the fennel-ish line.”
“Am I supposed to celery-brate that line?” said Mrs K R.
“Thought you would apple-laud my effort,” I said.
“Maybe you should leave the jokes to salmon else,” said Mrs K R.
Guess that will stop me from fishing for compliments.
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