The longer and warmer days of Spring bring forth a whole new crop of fresh vegetables. One of my favorites is fennel with it’s distinctive licorice-like flavor. Fennel is wonderful roasted and caramelized but it is also delightful served raw in salads. I particularly liked this salad featuring shaved fennel marinated in lemon and olive oil and paired with creamy burrata over a bed of baby arugula and topped with toasted pine nuts and fresh mint. I love the juxtaposition of the slightly crunchy, lemony fennel with the creaminess of the burrata which is one of my favorite cheeses. Burrata is similar to fresh mozzarella but has a soft, oozy and delicious center. Of course, if you are avoiding dairy, the fennel salad is strong enough to stand on it’s own without adding burrata. Since I made this as a main course, I also added avocado to add healthy fats and the sense of fullness it provides.
White foods like fennel don’t seem like they have much to offer from a nutritional standpoint but you might be surprised. Fennel is a great source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, folic acid, vitamin C and potassium. It’s high fiber content acts as a bulking agent and helps us feel fuller longer. Fennel can help with the absorption of iron and aids in digestion (particularly the digestion of fat) and freshens the breath. So I’m thinking fennel might be a no brainer to serve at dinner parties.
Fennel stalks and fronds are also edible. The fronds are especially great used as an herb or accent in dishes. The stalks can be chopped and added to soups and stocks. My fennel stalks, however, all went to my backyard chickens. I have 9 adorable rescue chickens, some of which were battery cage hens that were rescued from slaughter by Animal Place. Some of these lovelies had their beaks clipped which is a common factory farm practice. In losing their most important tool (their sharp beak) they have trouble picking up and cutting food. That is where my cuisinart comes into play. I blended up my fennel tops and fronds along with a few other fresh veggies to make it easier for my girls to get their greens. You can read more about my sweet girls and their Donald Trump ‘comb’overs on their Facebook Page: Mrs V’s Rescue Chickens. They love new followers. Oh, and don’t buy cheap eggs….
TIPS: Remove zest from lemon before cutting in half and juicing. Otherwise, it’s almost an impossible task and you will have wasted a lemon. Yes, I know this from experience when I did’t think ahead. This salad was just as good the next day once brought to room temperature, so I suspect the fennel can be marinated ahead of time and tossed with the rest of the ingredients just before serving.
SHAVED FENNEL SALAD WITH BURRATA
- 2 medium heads fennel
- 2 Tbsn olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1 lemon, juice and zest
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (or pistachios)
- 8 oz burrata
- 1 small bunch baby arugula
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 avocado, sliced (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Trim frond ends of fennel and slice in half lengthwise and remove the core.
- Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice fennel very thinly.
- Place fennel, oil, zest and lemon juice in a shallow dish; season with salt and pepper. Let stand 10 minutes or so.
- Dry toast the pinenuts in a small pan over medium heat until golden. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Place a layer of arugula on a platter and arrange marinated fennel on top. Add avocado, if desired.
- Place burrata over fennel and sprinkle with pine nuts and mint leaves. Drizzle with remaining marinade.
Shaved Fennel Salad with Burrata