If a vegetable can be called schizophrenic, fennel fits the diagnosis. Roasted or baked fennel melts in your mouth; it's sweet, with a mild flavor that hints of celery and dill. Raw fennel, on the other hand, hits your taste buds with the bite of anise (here in Rhode Island, fennel is often sold as anise), which tastes a bit like licorice. Sometimes that can be a bit overwhelming, but thanks to my sister-in-law Jill, I now know the secret to preparing raw fennel. Slice the fennel as thin as possible, on a mandoline if you have one, and "marinate" it in an acid- or mustard-based dressing for 15 minutes or so before serving. The acid will tenderize the fennel and mellow the flavor while still leaving plenty of crunch, and I promise you will fall in love with it even if you've never loved fennel before. Apples and fennel are available in our markets year-round, making this salad a perfect accompaniment for Thanksgiving turkey, or turkey burgers cooked on the grill.
Fennel, apple and walnut salad with pomegranate-orange dressing
For the dressing:
2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
Juice of 1/2 orange
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp agave nectar or honey
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of black pepper
For the salad:
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, a few fronds reserved for garnish
1 red-skinned apple
2 tsp finely chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously until the dressing emulsifies (thickens). Set aside.
With a mandoline or very sharp knife, slice the fennel and apple as thin as you can (1/8-inch or so). Place in a large mixing bowl, and drizzle on a few teaspoons of the dressing. Mix gently to coat, and let sit for 10 minutes.
Add the walnuts and parsley, and a bit more of the dressing if needed. Toss everything gently, and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the reserved fennel fronds.
More fun fennel recipes:
Fennel, pear and olive salad, from The Perfect Pantry
Beet and fennel salad, from The Perfect Pantry
Whole wheat penne pasta with sausage, fennel, tomato and olives, from The Perfect Pantry
Tomato, orange and fennel soup, from Soup Chick
Warm barley and fennel salad, from Food Blogga
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