I recently bought one of those Kyocera plastic mandolines—the cheap alternative to large French models—and it's changed everything. Never mind that a cell phone company makes it; this thing works. And it makes me look like a fast, skilled cook, especially with winter salad recipes like this one. Making the dressing, which involves dumping everything into a jar and shaking like mad, is the labor-intensive part. Otherwise, I just lazily slide my vegetables over the mandoline's ceramic blade, resulting in beautiful, paper-thin, uniform slices. I toss, serve, and accept the compliments.
Especially for raw fennel, thin slices are a must; otherwise it's too tough and woody. It can certainly be done with a good sharp knife—it's just going to take longer. This recipe comes from Dave Lieberman's Dave's Dinners, and pairs the fennel with crisp apple and peppery arugula, covering the lot with a citrusy dressing and toasted walnuts. It's extremely light and refreshing, if a little insubstantial. Some crumbled ricotta salata cheese, or even feta, would bulk it up and upgrade it to full-meal status.
- For the salad
- 1 cup walnut halves or pieces
- small bulb fennel with top
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 5 oz. baby arugula (or regular arugula, sliced into wide ribbons)
- For the dressing
- juice of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 orange
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sugar (omit if the orange is especially sweet—add last if it needs it)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
In a 350ºF oven or small skillet, toast the walnuts until fragrant and warmed through, 5-7 minutes.
Combine the dressing ingredients except the sugar in a small jar and shake vigorously until emulsified. Taste, and add the sugar if necessary (it depends on how sweet the orange is).
Slice off the fennel stem tops and root, then halve. Halve and core the apple. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, slice both as thinly as possible. If not using immediately, keep the slices in a bowl of water to avoid browning.
Toss the fennel and apple slices with the arugula in a large bowl with the dressing. Top with the walnuts and some chopped fennel fronds.