Shaved fennel and parmesan cheese salad
One of the advantages of being back on land (nearly 1 year now!) is the availability of fresh produce. While I did enjoy the challenge of adapting to local supplies and treated every trip to the market as an adventure, there is a certain sense of comfort coming with weekly visits to our familiar grocery store. My favourite fruit and vegetable store is located in the market place on the lower level of Miranda shopping mall. Terry reckons that what attracts me there is the proximity of the fashion stores…well maybe, but I love how the fresh produce are neatly displayed outside in big crates, with specials advertised to lure you inside. I get sucked in all the time: packs of mandarins for $1.99, 3 trays of strawberries for $5, sweet potatoes for $0.99/kg, cute green beans for $5.00/kg…
Not only is it a great incentive to include more fruits and veg in my cooking but I find that it’s encouraged me to discover new types. Take fennel for example. Ok, there is nothing new about this aniseed tasting bulbous vegetable. Except that Terry, who hates liquorice and Pernod ( a French favourite aperitif!), tasted cooked fennel many years ago and found the liquorice-like flavour far too dominant. So fennel has always been off the menu, even when we were cruising around France and Italy, where it is a staple.
One dreary winter day, bored with cooking slow stews and roasts, I came across these beautiful white and green fennel bulbs, the delicate fronds still attached. At $0.49 a piece, the savvy shopper in me could not resist. Craving for a fresh and crunchy salad, I decided to give these a go on unsuspecting Terry and the kids. I kept it simple with very few ingredients: shaved fennel, parmesan cheese, pumpkin seeds and a lemony olive oil dressing. Normally I would have used my mandoline to cut feathery whispers of fennel, but I used my electric slicer/grater instead, which worked just as good (though not as see through). The result: very refreshing, crunchy, sweetish yet also salty…It proved successful with the family, went perfectly with the pork chops that night. I have since made this salad a few times, adding a few things depending on the mood or what is available in the fridge ( zucchini coins, apple slices, even shaved kohlrabi) and it makes now a regular appearance on the dinner table, especially when paired with BBQ pork or chicken. It also keeps well in the fridge overnight, so perfect for a light lunch.
Shaved Fennel salad with parmesan cheese
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
3 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and shaved as thin as possible. Reserve the fronds.
100g parmesan cheese (or more to taste!)
A handful of pumpkin seeds
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
- Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice in a large bowl. Toss in the shaved fennel and combine until well coated by the dressing.
- Transfer the salad in a serving bowl. Crumble the parmesan cheese on top. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds and spread the fennel fronds. Season with salt and pepper.