Now I know some of you may be shaking your heads and walking away at the word fennel too: “I hate black licorice,” you say. Trust me, the flavour of a young, small fresh fennel bulb is not what you think. Give it a chance and tell me what you taste, but I am pretty sure that “licorice” isn’t the word that comes out of your mouth.
This is a refreshing salad — pure and simple. It’s a perfect pairing for most grilled meats (like ribs, steak, chicken) and pairs perfectly with a pan-breaded fillet of cod as well … so it is versatile, to say the least.
And if you reject creamy dressings on the basis that they’re loaded with fat, I’ve created a remarkable dressing using 0% fat Greek yogurt … instead of reaching for the full-fat sour cream I would usually choose. There was no appreciable difference in flavour but I sure felt a lot less guilty have second helpings of this creamy salad.
There are two other important ingredient choices in this salad: fennel tops and green apple. The fennel tops are key and bring a bit more of the fennel taste through the salad — so if you really hate the taste of fennel, this might not be an ingredient you want to use. However, for those of you who love fennel, please join me in lobbying grocers to stop cutting the tops off the bulbs. There is so much flavour in nutrients in the tops of most vegetables, from beets and radishes to celery and fennel, it’s a shame to constantly see them thrown away simply because they are seen as a nuance. Use the fresh fennel fronds just like you’d use dill and you’ll be surprised at the abundance of flavour that comes into your dish.
The last ingredient is one that I chose specifically because I wanted to pair this with an amazing Riesling I had from Karlo Estates winery — a beautiful and buttery wine full of the taste of green apples and pears (wine review coming on Friday). The green Granny Smith apple is a nice counter-balance to the sweetness of the carrot and fennel and really pulls the whole dish together in my opinion.
While the salad is quick and easy to make, and with good knife skills you can whip this up in 10 minutes, it nevertheless improves like most slaws given a chance for the acids in the dressing to help break down and slightly soften the vegetables.
So here’s to a long beautiful summer … and a salad, truly pure and definitely simple to make it memorable.
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
- One small head (2 cups) organic fennel, cored and thinly sliced
→ tops reserved
- 1 Granny Smith apple, coarsely grated
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
- 1 cup of grated carrot (about 1 large carrot)
- 2 tablespoons fennel tops (above), fronds removed and coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
(Do NOT use a salad cream like Miracle Whip)
- 1/3 cup (no-fat) Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- Wash and shake dry the whole fennel bulb. Remove the top from the fennel, including the delicate fronds, and set aside. Slice the bottom from the fennel and then slice it top-to-bottom in half. Cut a triangle notch out of each bottom to remove the tough core. Then, with a sharp knife, slice the fennel as finely as you can.
Using the largest part of a grater, take the whole apple (core included) and grate top to bottom the apple, making long strips of apple, and turning the apple as you do so. Don’t grate the core! but grate right up to it. Discard core and toss shredded apple with teaspoon of teaspoon of lemon juice to prevent browning. Add apple to the fennel.
Grate the carrot with the same grater as above and add to the bowl as well.Strip away the rough and dirty outer leaves of the purple cabbage. Cut in half and remove the tough core from the bottom by making a ‘triangle’ cut. Turn the cabbage onto a cutting board, cut-side down, and with a very sharp chef’s knife, julienne (shred) about 1-cup of the cabbage by cutting it into reasonably thin slices. Add the cabbage to the fennel, separating the pieces as you do so.Remove just the fronds from the tops of the fennel and finely chop. Add the fennel fronds to the slaw.
- In a 1-cup glass measuring cup, combine dressing ingredients: mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper and whisk them all together with a small whisk or fork. Adjust for salt, but note that the dressing should taste slightly too ‘salty’ because it is going to be diluted in the slaw.
- Add the dressing to the slaw …
… and mix well enough to ensure everything is evenly covered.
- Cover and refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours — though it will keep and get better overnight.
Serves 8 as a side salad.