I hadn't had much experience with fennel before I started working at G. Mostly the chefs there braised or sauteed it, and I decided I didn't like the texture or the flavor - too stringy and unpleasant, like celery, but even tougher.
I've been kind of flirting with the idea of giving fennel another try, mostly because I see it so often in the market, and because the frond-y part of it resembles dill, which is one of my favorite herbs. Finally I figured maybe fennel would taste better raw and sliced paper-thin, like green bell peppers do (I hate green peppers cooked. So brash - yuck!). So I bought a bulb the other day and figured I'd find a way to make it work.
Let me tell you: if you think you hate fennel, try it shaved, or sliced paper-thin, in a bright and fresh salad. You might need a mandolin to get the job done, or if you're careful like me, you can just slice it yourself.
I took a cue from my go-to Molly Wizenberg, and also the lady at Simply Recipes, both of whom I can rely on to bring me simple and delicious recipes. I knew what I had to do:
- Trim, wash, and slice one fennel bulb paper-thin
- Juice a lemon (which I got fresh from my coworker's tree)
- Make a dressing with the lemon juice, some good Spanish olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped parsley (which I grow right in my kitchen). I like to whip the dressing separately before tossing in with the salad to kind of "fluff" it up.
- Add some bright and colorful watermelon radish, sliced thinly, for contrast.
- Toss everything together with some grated parmesan cheese
I have to say it was a beautiful thing when I was done. the slices of fennel were layer-y and translucent, but had a strong flavor of licorice and a pleasing crispety-crunch. The lemon did a lot to cut through the strong herbiness of the fennel, and the parmesan gave it this yummy savory quality that made me want to gobble up a giant bowlful of the salad.
Instead, I exercised some restraint and ate half of the salad I made with half a pita bread and some Costo chicken. Dee-lish.