If you're like me, the snow isn't the only thing that's making you crawl the walls a bit this February. White stuff or not, it's pretty hard to find a good lookin' salad in these parts. Restaurants are peddling beets and potatoes with a very erstwhile passion, with nary a leaf in sight. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but the greens are endangered these days. And snowpocalypse didn't help; at some point, a friend pulled out a bowl of lettuce, and someone at the table actually squealed with enthusiasm. If you're listening, internet, I could really use some salad.
But I'm not here to complain. I'm writing because, at least temporarily, I've found just the thing to hold me over. This fennel and apple salad fresh and crunchy, dressed with a punchy shallot-lemon vinaigrette. (I love lemon, and shallots are, quite simply, the difference between ehh and amazing in so many things.) Best of all, unlike some winter salads, with their candied nuts and their cooked squash and their big hunks of cheese, it's not at all heavy. It's truly an antidote to the bitter cold outdoors, and a loud and clear answer to those wilted greens I've been seeing everywhere. It's absolutely lovely as is, right out of the bowl. For picture purposes, I mounded it atop a bed of (not wilted) greens, which helped balance the tang of the lemon and added a nice third dimension to the finished dish. I could also see finishing this with something sweet -- pomegranate seeds, perhaps. Or, if you're making this in the dead of winter as I did, supremed clementines or blood oranges. One last alternative: to make this salad even more substantial, I'll be making it for brunch on an upcoming Sunday and serving it with black olives alongside charred tuna and hard-boiled egg segments for a creative play on salade nicoise. And those are just a couple options. I know there are some mighty creative cooks lurking around here: if you've got an idea for this salad, be sure to leave it in the comments.
Fennel and Apple Salad adapted from Bon Appetit
Note: I mentioned this in the post, but I want it documented in the recipe for those who print it out alone. This salad lends itself to many possible variations, and as home cooks, it's our opportunity, dare I say our responsibility, to play around here. Feel free to eat this as is, just out of the bowl. For a more formal presentation, cushion a mound of the salad atop a bed of salad greens (arugula or watercress might be nice) and top with some pomegranate seeds or clementine or blood orange segments. For something more substantial, serve with charred tuna, hard-boiled eggs and black olives for a take on salade nicoise. Those are my ideas; what are yours?
For the dressing:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 1 shallot, minced 1/2 teaspoon (packed) grated lemon peel 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste freshly cracked pepper 2 large fresh fennel bulbs, trimmed, halved, very thinly sliced (preferably using a mandoline) 2 8-ounce Fuji apples, halved, cored, cut into matchstick-size strips
Whisk first five ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust salt content, then add freshly cracked pepper to taste.
In a medium bowl, combine fennel and apple. Add half the dressing and taste. Add more as desired. Serve immediately.