• The Reynas

Fennelly Figuring It Out



What began as a knife lesson about slicing and dicing fennel evolved into a post about two salads. Honestly, I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to make anything too intricate with fennel. Salads sounded like the perfect lazy post. No stovetop or oven involved. YES!

Still, being lazy doesn’t mean the food has to be boring or flavorless. That’s not what Teakwood Tavern is about.

But before we get to the cooking, let’s learn a little bit about fennel.

Fennel

There are two main types of fennel: Florence fennel (aka finocchio) and common fennel. Florence fennel is grown throughout the Mediterranean and the US, and it is the version carried in most grocery stores. It has a broad, bulbous base with celery-like stalks and feathery foliage called fronds. Common fennel is the variety from which the oval, greenish-brown fennel seeds come.


Fennel pollen is the yellow powder taken from blooming fennel flowers.

Now that we're fennelly done with the backstory, let’s start cooking!

Slicing fennel

If you search the internet for a fennel salad, you will likely see shaved fennel mentioned. Generally, shaving fennel involves using a mandolin. However, not every home kitchen has that gadget. If you are in that boat, don’t let that keep you from making a recipe calling for shaved fennel, just use your chef’s knife like we do here and slice it as thin as you can.

The following salad is our take on a classic winter salad. Nowadays, oranges are available year-round, and this salad is a refreshing dish for a warm summer day. In Texas, we are already into the 90-degree days of summer. Cold salads hit the spot.

Fennel and orange salad with citrus vinaigrette

For the citrus vinaigrette (makes about 7/8 cup)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 ¼ teaspoon orange zest (zest of 1 medium orange)

½ cup olive oil

Other salad components (makes 4 servings)

1 bulb fennel

4 medium oranges

4 oz of arugula

½ cup walnuts

5 oz Parmesan

Set the oven to 300-degrees and toast the walnuts for 8-10 minutes.

Next, make the vinaigrette. This vinaigrette recipe will make more dressing than you will need for the salad, but the vinaigrette can be used elsewhere over the next week. Combine all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk together until blended. Set aside.

The following video explains how to cut orange segments. This technique will work for other citrus as well.



Shave the Parmesan. Y-peelers work great here but you can also use a cheese grater with a large blade.

By now you are probably wondering if this is really a post about fennel. Don’t worry, it is.


Fennel turns brown quickly once you cut it so don’t cut it until you are ready to use it. For this recipe, slicing the fennel is the last step before we combine everything.


Now that all of the ingredients are ready, it’s time to put it all together.


Once everything is mixed, plate it up and devour! Here is how ours came out before it was demolished.

Dicing fennel

It is more likely that you will need to dice fennel for a warm dish, but there’s no law against having diced fennel in a salad. I love the diced fennel in this dish because it looks similar to the diced pear. The pair plays with your eyes and taste buds.

Fennel and pear salad with honey balsamic vinaigrette

For the honey balsamic vinaigrette (makes about 2/3 cup)

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ cup olive oil

Other salad components (makes four servings)

1 fennel bulb

2 pear

½ cup sliced almonds

4 oz Gorgonzola cheese (or any other blue cheese)

2 teaspoons fennel fronds, plus more for garnish

Set the oven to 300-degrees and toast the sliced almonds for 5-8 minutes.

Next, make the vinaigrette. This vinaigrette recipe will make more dressing than you will need for the salad, but the vinaigrette can be used elsewhere over the next week. Combine all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk together until blended. Set aside.

We are using the fennel fronds for two purposes: as an ingredient in the salad and as a garnish. The picture below is the amount that I picked to make two salads so double that if you are making the full four servings. Give that a rough chop, and set aside.



Pick some more fronds for garnishing, and put those aside. I picked 3-4 small fronds per plate for garnishes.

Rough chop the blue cheese. It doesn’t need to be pretty, but the goal is to have similar sized small chunks. As long as you don’t have any huge pieces, it will be fine.

Save the pears until right before prepping the fennel. They will also oxidize and turn brown if left out for too long after cutting. Peel the pears before dicing. The following video explains how to dice the pears.


Like the recipe above, we saved the fennel for last. Here is the video for dicing fennel in ¼ inch dice.


Now that all of the ingredients are ready, it’s time to put it all together. You could easily put this in a mixing bowl, toss, and call it a day. But I felt like going for the fancy plating with this one, which meant the use of a ring mold.

I recommend stacking in the following order: 1) cheese on bottom; then fennel; then pears; then almonds; and then the chopped fronds.

Well, that’s it for our second edition of knife skills. But it also marks the fourth salad we’ve made, which means we’ve provided four different salad dressings recipes (the other two being CAESAR and WARM BACON VINAIGRETTE).

We hope you enjoy these recipes and learning new knife skills!

Sending love,

John

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