Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cucumber Fennel Salad


So, I just got back from a short trip to New Orleans late last night.  You'd think this recipe would be some Creole recipe or at least something with shrimp in it.  Don't get me wrong; I had some great food in NOLA!  Yet, the one dish I was dying to try to replicate was more of the vegetable variety because I was so enamored with the flavor I experienced in, of all places, the Denver airport.

Fennel?  I've never purposely eaten fennel.  Sure, I'd heard of it.  I'd even seen it at the grocery store wedged between the beets and the kale. I wasn't even sure what fennel was.  Yet, this little gem came as a accompaniment to the avocado crab cakes I ordered while on an unanticipated 2-hour delay in Denver on my way to a 4 day mini-vacation.  Obviously, I had New Orleans on the brain because I couldn't resist getting my journey started into the crab cake capital of the world.  I have no idea how they made this dish at the restaurant, so I quickly interrogated the waitress. Unfortunately, I got a lot of, "Umm, I'm not sure" responses.  However, I do know that the menu said, "cucumber fennel salad" and that was all I needed.

Fennel: aka that black licorice flavor you either love or hate.  Now, I warn you-- I hate black licorice. Yet, when using the true licorice root of the plant, called the fennel bulb, you will instantly fall in love with this hint of anise flavor.  The combination with the cucumber and dill is amazing.  Of course, I had to figure out how to actually use fennel.  Do you use the bulb?  The green fronds? both? I don't know!  Of course, there's a Youtube video for everything.  And here you go.

For tonight's dinner, this salad accompanied my crabcakes (see previous post), salmon fillets and some wild rice.  Of course a Chilean Chardonnay was also served.  I'm not sure I quite captured the salad I had at the Denver airport, but I got a thumbs up at the dinner table.  I imagine there are many possibilities with this dish; red onion, scallions, jicama... use your imagination!

Ingredients:
1 large fennel bulb
3 cucumbers
4-5 radishes
2 T quality olive oil
2 T white balsamic vinegar or your favorite flavored vinegar; I used pear champagne vinegar
1 tsp lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 T chopped fresh dill

Directions:
Slice fennel bulb into very thin slices.  Chop fennel fronds and set aside.
Peel cucumber.  Cut off ends and slice in half, lengthwise.  Use a spoon to remove seeds.  Slice cucumber into thin slices.
Slice radishes into thin slices.
Place fennel, cucumber and radishes into a large salad bowl.
Combine olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper into a small bowl and whisk together.
Add olive oil mixture to fennel and cucumber mixture and toss all ingredients.
Place in refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
Just before serving, garnish with fresh dill.

Dietary consideration:
Unless you're allergic to any of these ingredients, it's a very friendly vegan, gluten free, non-dairy and Whole30 recipe.


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