The first time I used fennel in a recipe was for my friend’s “Friendsgiving” last year – a potluck Thanksgiving dinner with friends. I was in charge of bringing a salad, and somehow became fixated on the idea of bringing something featuring fennel. Fennel is wonderful during any time of the year, but for some reason I associate it specifically with autumn – it’s fresh and crisp, but has that unexpected anise flavor that reminds me of cooler weather. I’ve played with a few fennel salad combinations since then, and particularly love this version with orange, avocado and pistachios. It has so many interesting flavors that come together beautifully – the crisp, anise-flavored fennel, the sweet and slightly tart orange, the creamy avocado, and the salty and crunchy pistachios. It’s all tied together with a sweet and zesty dressing that can be made in about one minute.
I personally could eat huge chunks of fennel by itself, but I realize I might like the licorice flavor more than others. Since it is quite a strong flavor, I decided to use shaved fennel in this salad. At the risk of embarrassing myself, I had to look up how to shave fennel online (how did people live before the internet?). I had always been daunted by the task, likely because I had no idea what it involved. I envisioned it to be complicated, but it actually couldn’t be easier – you simply shave the fennel with a vegetable peeler. I used a Y-shaped peeler and dragged it slowly down the length of the fennel, which worked perfectly. Shaved fennel still has the wonderful flavor, but it’s a much lighter version that won’t overpower the rest of the salad.
I love how this salad is so healthy yet still fun and interesting. With all my recipes, I try to maintain that balance – healthy meals should certainly not skimp on flavor, variety and creativity. I hope that you enjoy this as much as I do!
- For the salad:
- ½ fennel bulb, stems cut off
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1 orange, sliced
- ¼ cup pistachios
- Mixed greens (enough for 2 people)
- For the dressing:
- ½ tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Zest of half an orange
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- Slowly drag a vegetable peeler down the length of the fennel to create long, shaved slices. Peel about 8-10 slices for each salad.
- Combine the fennel with the remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl.
- Whisk the honey, vinegar and orange zest together. Slowly add the olive oil as you whisk, and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the dressing to the salad and toss well; serve immediately.