January 01, 2011

Crisp Fennel Salad

Well, well.  Happy New Year!  A resolution for 2011 is to provide you with more posts each month - I realized I've slacked these last few months but did you also realize that I've had this blog for more than a year!  Hooray!

So, I discovered fennel from one of my go-to Food Network chefs - Giadda. She's definitley one that I consistently watch, but I do have to say, the way she closes her eyes while she tastes the dish and does that mmmm-MMMM sound, makes me cringe and like her just a little less. So annoying! Ha! Her dishes are fairly good, not too complicated but beware some are hit and miss. 

Back to fennel.  It's a crisp, sweet, licorice-ish flavor veggie.  It's an odd looking thing with the bulb and several stalks that are typically tossed.  For me, it was one of those intimidating veggies that I saw in the store, wasn't sure how to cook or eat it and so just kept walking to the cauliflower and broccoli.  After seeing Giadda and Ina use fennel various ways, I thought to give it a whirl.  Baby steps, though!  Make it into a raw salad with a simple lemon vinagrette and wow, I love this salad and I love fennel!  Now, if it wasn't so expensive I think I'd be inclined to eat this at every meal.  A fennel bulb will cost around $3-$4 and two will feed one person.  If you're making for several, you'll need about 5 bulbs. 

As for the stalks, you are suppose to cut the tips and discard. I've tried grilling/sauteeing them and they are edible.  Also, my dad pulled back the outside, fiberous layer (like a banana) and the inside veggie meat was quite delicious.  Just takes a little work.  Also, for plating, save a few of the leaves for garnish to add a nice touch.

Crisp Fennel Salad
Serves 1

2 bulbs fennel (bulbs only)
1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Handful of arugula
Freshy grated parmesan cheese

1. Wash the fennel well as it can be quite sandy.  I cut the bulb right where the green stalks start to protrude.  Then cut the end off too - where it's a tad tough.  Then half it vertically as shown below.  I don't cut out the core which some may tell you to.  It's a little harder but still edible in my opinion.  Then slice them up!
2. In a small bowl, grate the lemon zest then juice the entire lemon.  Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Then with a fork, whisk in olive oil until it creates a yummy vinagrette.  Keep tasting until it's just right - adding S&P as needed.  
3. In a bowl, toss the arugula, fennel and the dressing.  Once incorporated, add in the freshly grated cheese, taste and add more S&P as necessary.  Done!  I also grilled a tomato to complement this salad and yum!

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