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I'm happiest when the food I make becomes a backdrop to a lively conversation. When I'm not cooking, I'm traveling or dreaming about travel. Come sit with me, and enjoy! Read more here.

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« orange ricotta cheesecake: where orange marmalade goes to heaven | Main | bordelaise sauce: bringing the romance home »

fennel: the lively shoot meets its match with tomato, lime, and apricot


Hearty and voluptuous with a long neck and a sweet licorice flavor, the fennel bulb, or finocchio dulce, is both workhorse and diva.

When raw, she likes to be sliced thinly and paired with salty and sweet flavors like pancetta and oranges. When cooked, she enjoys settling down with fish, onion, olives, Gruyere, potato, tomato, and sausage. Her emerald green fronds can be reserved and sprinkled over the top of dishes to add a high note of flavor and a splash of color before serving.

I’ve read that the big-bottomed shoot is native to the Mediterranean and has been a staple on tables in Europe and Asia for centuries. However, her popularity in the United States has been limited to the last decade or so, which explains why I never spotted fennel in the grocery stores growing up.

When I first started cooking with fennel a couple of years ago, I was put off by the pungent anise flavor and tough, crunchy texture. Eventually, as I learned to pair it with the right combination of flavors, the vegetable grew on me and it's now a lively addition to my table.

This fennel, apricot, and tomato salad is adapted from Daniel Boulud’s “Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine” and shows how the right combination of flavors can make fennel shine. In this recipe, thinly sliced fennel is topped with saffron-lime dressing and coupled with intensely sweet dried apricot and mint. The flavors are bright and playful yet beautifully integrated.


Fennel, Apricot, and Tomato Salad

Serves 2

1/2 teaspoon saffron powder
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
1-1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
6 mint leaves, julienned
Salt and pepper
1 medium-sized fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise (I used a mandoline)
2 dried apricots, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half

In a small bowl, add the saffron powder to two tablespoons of hot water and let infuse until the water turns bright yellow.

Whisk together the olive oil, lime zest and juice, vinegar, mint leaves, and saffron water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a salad bowl, toss the fennel, apricots, and tomatoes with the vinaigrette and season to taste with salt and pepper.


Reader Comments (6)

My family really fond of fennel bulb, they always expect me to put fennel bulb in any salad I make. So, my fridge never absent from this delicious, sweet, and slightly licorice taste bulb. I make almost the recipe like yours here, but never thought of adding apricot in it. This is such a wonderful idea, Angela. I should remember this. Next time I make it, I'll sure will add apricot.

February 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElra

I was surprised by the addition of the apricot too and it works beautifully!

February 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

This salad is absolutely, delightfully delicious!

February 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Ward

it's amazing that some people don't like fennel. i'm mildly obsessed with it. but you're right - in it's raw form it can be kind of harsh. this salad is beautiful. love the apricot or adding any type of fruit. we've done apple sliced very thin and it pairs perfectly.

but my favorite way to eat fennel is roasted. it gets all carmelized and the flavors mellow. mmmmm.

February 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWe Are Never Full

ang: fennel pics are just gorgeous, particularly the bottom one (I'm a glutton for symmetry). I did a stuffed salt-encrusted fish last year and sauteed fennel with saffron, blood orange, and a few herbs was an awesome stuffing. drizzle on a little olive oil and sprinkle some sea salt; it's fab. fennel should be embraced! :)
xo - C

February 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterM. C. Allan

Thanks, Paul! I love cooking for you, baby.

We are Never Full: I like the idea of fennel with thinly sliced apple. It sounds so refreshing. I'm with you with the roasting -- that's got to be one of the best ways to both mellow out and intensify the flavors fennel. Yum.

Hey Carrie -- That fish with the fennel, saffron, and blood orange sounds amazing! I love cooking with citrus and it's so perfect with fennel. Glad you like the pics! xo

February 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

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