Fennel. Beautiful fennel. How you terrified me at first. Your soft, feathery fronds perplexed me, your delicately interwoven stalks intimidated. At first I played coy, stripping you down to your core and slowly braising with olive oil. But that first bite of roasted fennel served alongside a fillet of salmon turned me into a fennel fiend. My dalliance quickly turned into a full fledged love affair.
There is something primordial about fennel. It looks like it came from another planet, a wild, untamed world. The bulb of the fennel plant is the sweet spot. Crisp and crunchy with a subdued licorice flavor, a hint of celery, fennel can beckon and entice. Most people prefer to saute or roast fennel, but I prefer to slice it raw and make luscious salads.
Get out the mandolin slicer and set it on the thinnest setting. I love, love, love shaved fennel. Fennel can be a little tough when raw, slicing it paper thin makes light and tender. Now, I know I could eat this as is, but I have bigger plans for my fennel.
Fennel and Fruit Salad
1 bulb fennel
1 Granny Smith apple
1 small apricot, pitted and sliced
1-2 Tblsp raisins
A pinch of salt
2 Tblsp yogurt
1 Tblsp sweetener (agave syrup or honey)
1 bunch sliced basil leaves
Tart green apples sliced paper thin make a wonderful pairing with fennel root. The sweet fennel counters the sour apple.
I found these beautiful mixed raisins at an ethnic market in town. They add the perfect sweetness to the salad. I added apricots because I had some on hand, but this salad could easily be made with fennel and apples alone.
Sweet, tart, crunchy, creamy.
Oh fennel, how I love thee.