There was a time when fennel made me gag. In fact, I can’t believe the 180 I’ve done here, going from unadulterated hatred of all things fennel, to actually craving it. I’ve been told these things are not uncommon, that your palate does a shift every seven years or so, and I thank mine for letting me enjoy fresh fennel, shaved thinly in salads.
The salad is deceptively simple and yet it is a bit genius – everything in it works and does so beautifully. Sometimes, I fall deeply in love with a dish and can’t stop making it. I become a bit like a broken record as I cook the same thing over and over. Such is the case with this salad. I’ve had versions of it in a few places, most recently over glasses of wine at Lela Bar in the West Village, but their version didn’t offer dandelion greens or celery. Generously doused with olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkled with sea salt, shaved fennel mixed with parsley. Elsewhere, and quite some time ago, I had something that was shaved celery and parsley with sea salt and olive oil and lemon juice. The salad was celestial, but it disappeared off the menu after a week and I never saw it again. I kept thinking about making it at home, but of course, with so many things in the Sassy Radish kitchen, we’re on a bit of a time delay. The comforting glow of office fluorescent lighting has a particular allure.
I know I blame everything on work and am afraid must use my my-work-ate-all-my-free-time-and-is-keeping-me-busier-than-imaginable excuse again. I love you, dear readers, and love that you come in this little space to read my somewhat fragmented thoughts, but work, being that it allows me to pay rent and have a roof over my head and have this wee site for you and me to congregate around, takes precedence over time in the kitchen. Or writing. Le sigh.
In any case, this salad. Run, don’t walk to make it. Unless you think fennel is vile. In which case, maybe try it without fennel? But if you do like fennel, this salad is for you. Also – a word about dandelion greens. Have you ever had them? I’ve been eating them since I was a child, but they haven’t caught on in the US until fairly recently. Please try them – they’re like a chewier and more exciting version of spinach. No, I’m lying – they’re nothing like spinach – they are way, way better. I wouldn’t think of using anything else here to offset the fennel and the celery.
I made a very generous portion of this for my Sunday supper, which was the same night that this cake and this chicken made an appearance. The whole dinner was a home run. It all worked. And this salad – disappeared in minutes. Nothing left. Second plates for all. I mean, who does that with salad and gets into a tizzy over a bit of green on your plate? Right? It’s got to be good to have this kind of appeal. And it is.
Now, I won’t tell you how much olive oil and lemon juice to add. That is between you and your taste buds, my lovelies. I think that more dressing is lovely, but a restrained amount can work too. Personally, I use one lemon and juice it, but you might find that too acidic and opt for half a lemon. That’s okay too. I also just pour my olive oil over it for a few seconds, add lemon juice, sprinkle some salt and then toss. The trick is to use the best olive oil you can get your hands on. And that stuff can get expensive. While normally I wouldn’t tell you to go and spend lots of money on such things, here’s where it’ll really make a difference. Good olive oil will transform your salad into something totally different so you might want to use more of it. You might want it to coat your salad a bit thicker, or not. Either way, you can’t screw this up. Unless you use bad oil. In which case, you might wonder why I’m jabbering about a plateful of greens for six paragraphs.
I was only sad I didn’t make more of it. I mean (suppressed sob!) I only got one (one!!!) plate and let my guests have seconds. But secretly, in my own head, what I really wanted to do was grab the salad bowl and steal away into the bedroom and eat the whole thing by myself. So much for fennel and gagging.