Yesterday I found out that my roommate Zandra had never eaten fennel. When I recovered from the shock, I decided to buy a bulb. Low and behold, the NYTimes ran an article today called "Singing the Praises of Fennel." Tara Parker-Pope writes:
In 1824, the writer Thomas Appleton sent his friend Thomas Jefferson a batch of garden seeds from Naples. The broccoli and cauliflower from the region were beyond compare, he wrote, but he saved his highest praise for the fennel...Although Mr. Jefferson was an avid gardener, fennel has never gained much popularity in American cooking.Even though I love its mild anise flavor, I have to admit that I usually forget about fennel when perusing the supermarket produce and don't eat it very often. To truly appreciate the fennel, I didn't want to cook it, as Parker's recipes suggest, but eat it raw in an arugula salad. Along with the sliced fennel, I added some sweet vidalia onion and celery to the greens. Fennel and celery have a similar texture and crunch and pair very well together. I didn't have any, but I think toasted pine nuts would be very good in this salad too, or maybe some shaved pecorino.
I made a very simple lemon juice dressing. It was light and refreshing, and didn't interfere with or muddle the flavor of the peppery arugula or the sweet fennel. Overall, a perfect spring dish. So do your fennel-ignorant roommate a favor and entice them with this salad.
Fennel and Arugula Salad
4 oz. arugula
1/2 (or more) bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1/2 vidalia onion, thinly sliced
4 stalks of celery, chopped
1/4 c. celery leaves, chopped
2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
5 tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1. Combine the arugula, onion, celery, fennel and celery leaves in a bowl.
2. Make the dressing by whisking the lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper together. Drizzle on the oil while whisking.
3. When ready to serve, dress the salad and mix.
Note: To prepare the fennel, wash it and cut off and discard the stalks. To slice, cut in half and and slice as you would an onion.