The first warm spring days always have me craving fresh, raw, crunchy produce that I tend to overlook when it’s cold outside. Fennel is probably my number one vegetable in that category, so we’ve been having a lot of fennel salads, which got me thinking about fennel’s practicality. It tends to be sturdier and last longer than delicate salad greens, so even if you don’t have greens, you can still make a bomb salad with a bulb of fennel. This version is incredibly delicious and so much greater than the sum of its parts, plus it can be customized endlessly.
The bulk of this salad is made up of melt-in-your-mouth wisps of fennel (achieved easily with a mandoline) and white beans (making for a beautiful, monochrome plate). There is a ‘cheesy,’ peppery cashew dust that gets stirred throughout and sprinkled on top of the salad, bringing some subtle umami and fattiness that usually comes in the form of grated cheese. The dressing is simple – zesty and garlicky, made with ingredients you likely have in your pantry.
To customize, you can use other kinds of beans, or add in delicate greens like arugula or herbs, and/or citrus segments. Rustic, homemade croutons would also be really good in this salad. You can experiment endlessly. Hope you’ll give it a try!
- 1 clove garlic - grated or minced
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- pinch red pepper flakes
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- sea salt
- scant ¼ cup cashews
- ½ teaspoon nutritional yeast
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large fennel bulb (or 2 small) - stems cut off, fronds reserved
- ½ cup cooked white beans
- Combine the garlic, vinegar, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, and lemon juice in the bottom of a salad bowl, whisk to combine. Stream in the olive oil while whisking, until emulsified. Add a generous pinch of salt to taste and adjust if needed. Set aside.
- Grind the cashews in a mortar and pestle until mostly fine. Add the nutritional yeast, a generous amount of both black pepper and salt right to the mortar bowl, and mix to combine.
- Place the fennel on a mandoline stem side down, root facing up (see photo) and slice very thinly right into the bowl with the dressing. Cut the fennel in half through the root if it doesn't fit on your mandoline and proceed to slicing. Avoid the tough core by rotating the fennel when slicing, at the end. Add the white beans, reserved fennel fronds, and about half of the cashew dust to the bowl, and mix to combine. Serve right away, finished with more cashew dust.