Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Best arugula and fennel salad

Fennel and arugula are a pretty standard pairing, so this isn't a groundbreaking salad. It's just so good that I can't bring myself not to share it. You almost always see fennel and arugula with some kind of citrus and olive oil. This particular version has a little extra depth of flavor provided by anchovy paste.

If the mere thought of anchovies makes you gag, hold on. Let me try to convince you. I'm definitely a latecomer to all things anchovy. Once, while in a country where I didn't totally understand the language, I accidentally ordered a pizza with giant anchovies and I ended up having to exile the entire box to the fire escape just so I could sleep that night without the smell. I'm not normally picky about food, but those little fish skeeve me out.

I've started to warm up to them slightly due to my recent Caesar salad obsession. I still haven't managed to make one at home, but many of you clever readers suggested that I start with anchovy paste. And so I bought a tube. It is indeed much less intimidating than a can of fish, and I like that I can use it in dribs and drabs.

arugula and fennel salad
{arugula and fennel salad}*

This salad is spicy from the arugula, with good flavor depth from the dressing and aged cheese. Even if you don't normally like fennel, I'd highly recommend giving it a try. It's worked into regular rotation around here. It's even decent the next day (although better freshly tossed), which is rare in a salad.

Arugula and fennel salad (just barely modified from here, serves 6 - 8, depending on how salad hungry they are)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp anchovy paste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste 
7 oz arugula
2 smallish fennel bulbs, trimmed, halved and sliced paper thin
2 cups (~ 1/3 lb) Parmesan cheese shavings
:: Whisk the lemon juice, vinegar and anchovy paste together, then add the olive oil in a slow stream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

:: Toss the dressing with the arugula, fennel and most of the cheese in a large bowl. Add the remaining cheese to the top of the salad for a prettier presentation.

Notes -

I used 7 oz of arugula instead of the 5 called for in the original recipe, because that's what I had. With that volume, I think using the full amount of dressing was exactly right, which makes me wonder if it would be overdressed with the lower amount. I also used 2 smaller fennel bulbs instead of one large one. And I left out the olives because I wanted to keep it really simple.

I used our vegetable peeler to shave the Parmesan cheese. I splurged on a nice aged cheese for company, but I've also made the salad with a slightly cheaper Reggiano and it turns out great. Two cups sounds like a lot (and honestly, I don't bother measuring), but you'll only need about 1/3 of a pound for this large salad. The shaving makes it go much further.

I used my mandoline for the fennel, on the super thin slice setting. I was worried that it still wasn't exactly "paper thin" but it was perfect. If you don't have a mandoline, just use a sharp knife and you'll do fine.

* I've been holding off on sharing this in hopes of getting a better picture, one not taken on a winter evening in artificial light. But I give up! It's been months and I haven't remembered to snap one and that is months that some of you haven't known about this salad, which is sad.


  1. Oh, I think the picture of the salad is quite pretty! I've gone through literally ALL of your photos on Flickr, and I really like your photography style. Though I admit I did it mostly because I wanted to look at as many pictures of Circe as possible :)

    1. Awww, thanks! Circe is my favorite subject too. : )

  2. This looks delicious! I'll definitely have to give it a shot.

  3. I this to have with dinner last night and it was delicious. Will definitely make this again. My friend didn't even notice there was anchovy in the dressing until most of it was gone which I count as a win.

  4. Miam ! Belle recette, l'avez-vous en français ?
    A bientôt sur ce super blog !

  5. After having a giant burger for dinner yesterday, I think this salad will be dinner tonight. I like light salads that still have a good flavor, and this sounds right up my alley.

    And the picture looks great! I think because you know the circumstances of the photo it looks off to you, but I couldn't even tell it was taken with artificial light.

  6. yum, looks delicious! xo

  7. YUM! Okay, I've really gotta try fennel one of these days!

  8. I completely agree with you on anchovy. When my husband first balked at the idea of regularly using him, I put it this way: that taste you can't quite place in dresses and Italian sauces? Almost always anchovy. Get over it.


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