Fennel is in season right now and with it, my love affair continues. I just can't seem to get enough of the crisp, fresh, anise-y flavor. I crave it.
Months ago, my friend Adri told me about a traditional Italian salad that I have since made over and over and will never tire of making.
The players: shaved fennel, Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged balsamico and olive oil.
In the late fall as my garden was winding down, there were a few small, sweet fennel bulbs ready to be pulled from the soil. I almost hated to harvest them. It's like when you save up for something and you finally buy it, and it's a big of a let down because the fun was in the hoping and dreaming. That's how I felt about the fennel I lovingly tended to all summer long. The cooler weather would soon give way to early snows, so I knew it was time to harvest. And it wasn't a let-down at all. They were so sweet and full of flavor. And I fell in love with fennel all over again.
Right now I'm craving fresh, crisp salads, as I always do when I'm not sure I can take another stew made from root veggies. Shaved fennel is the way to go. I found big, succulent bulbs at Trader Joe's and I could barely contain my excitement for the salad I would soon be making. The checker asked me about fennel and I gushed about this salad and my other favorite fennel recipes.
I don't own a mandoline yet, that's on the top of my cooking gadget list for 2013. I just use a really sharp knife and slice it as thin as I can. It's good enough for me, especially when my impatience starts to take over and I can't wait another minute for my salad to come together and be in my mouth.
This aceto balsamico*...is like syrup. I want to eat it on everything. Really good olive oil is a must too.
The salad shines, I'm telling you. Fireworks are going to go off the first time you eat this. It's simple, uncomplicated, fresh, and delicious, which is what every good salad hopes to be.
Shaved Fennel Salad with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Balsamico
1 large fennel bulb, cut in half lengthwise, hard inner core removed, thinly shaved, green fronds reserved
2 oz. (or more) Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved (use a vegetable peeler)
Drizzle each: the best olive oil and balsamic vinegar you can find
sprinkle of coarse sea salt (I used sel gris)
Instructions:Arrange shaved fennel in four bowls. Top with the Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings. Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamico. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and reserved green fronds. Serve immediately.
Makes enough for 4.
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