I. Love. Fennel.
I may have mentioned this before.
It’s good cooked or raw. It’s sweet and delicious. When cooked it is tender, flavorful and mild. When raw it is cool, crunchy and wonderful…and perfect in an easy salad like this one!
This may be my favorite salad ever.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that just a few months ago I said the Arugula Salad is my favorite salad ever. I didn’t lie…I just changed my mind!
It’s just that this salad is so simple and so refreshing, so perfect for an uncomfortably hot summer day…
Try it. You won’t regret it!
Begin by slicing a bulb of fennel very thinly. You can slice it in strips from top to bottom, or in half-moons across the grain. I prefer slicing it this way…it comes out more tender and easy to chew. Use a mandolin if ya got one.
I don’t got one.
If you have a particularly large bulb you may want to cut out the core, which can be tough. This one happened to be very young and tender, so I just left it in there.
(To core a fennel bulb: Slice the bulb in half from top to bottom. If you want half-circle shaped slices, dig the core out with the tip of a paring knife. If you don’t care or are planning on dicing it, cut the halves in half again from top to bottom to give you quarters. Lay each quarter flat on the cutting board and cut the innermost angle out of the wedge to remove the core.)
Mince up a few tablespoons worth of the fennel fronds.
Cut an English cucumber (or any ol’ cucumber you happen to have on hand) in half lengthwise, then slice the halves up thinly on a bias.
Mince up a clove or two of garlic, then mash it into paste.
Next, juice a couple of lemons into a large bowl.
Throw in the minced fennel fronds, the garlic mash, and generous sprinklings of salt and freshly ground black pepper. If I was going to serve this salad right away, I’d throw in a tablespoon or so of olive oil to give it some body and help it stick to the veggies. Since I wanted to put it in the fridge for a couple of hours, I left the olive oil out. The veggies will soak up all that tangy, lemony goodness and be wonderful and flavorful!
Stir up the dressing, then dump in the fennel and cucumber.
Toss it all together and stick it in the fridge until you are ready to eat! If you’re leaving it for several hours, it really helps to give it all a stir every now and then.
If ya want, brown up or grill a couple of chicken tenders to bulk up the salad and give you a bit of protein. I seasoned them very simply with salt and let them sear until golden brown and cooked through. Then, because I was running a bit ahead (for once) I let them cool and stuck them in the fridge and had cold chicken tenders with the salad.
When you are ready to eat, slice up the chicken and a couple of tomatoes. Toss some of the fennel mixture with some mixed greens, throw in a few tomato slices, and serve up with the chicken and maybe some fresh bread. Dip into the bottom of the fennel salad bowl and drizzle some of the lemon dressing over everything.
It’s like air conditioning for your mouth!
FENNEL AND CUCUMBER SALAD
1 small fennel bulb, fronds removed (reserve), rinsed and thinly sliced
1 medium English cucumber, thinly sliced
3-4 tablespoons fennel fronds, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
About 4 c. mixed greens
1 tomato, sliced
1 lb. chicken tenders
Squeeze the juice from the lemons into a large bowl. Mix in the fronds, garlic, olive oil (if using) and salt and pepper. Whisk together and add in the sliced fennel and cucumber. If serving in a few hours, cover and place in the fridge, tossing occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook the chicken tenders as desired (I coated them in olive oil, seasoned with salt and seared over medium high heat until golden brown and cooked through–about 7 minutes total. If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor grill, this would be an excellent time to use it!)
Slice a tomato and the chicken tenders.
To serve, toss some of the fennel mixture with the mixed greens, top with tomatoes and chicken tenders. Serve with crusty bread and some of the extra dressing drizzled over.
Eat and be happy!