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This beautiful and simple fresh shaved fennel salad recipe has everything you want in a light, easy plate. It’s crunchy, tangy, sweet and salty, and so freaking good!
Here it is — a beautiful tangle of shaved fennel, lemon zest, celery, walnuts and salty cheese, all tempered by little bites of sweetness from chopped dates.
It’s a surprisingly light, bright, crunchy fennel salad with the simple Mediterranean flair I’m known for. It might look like an unassuming, everyday fennel salad, but trust me, it’s fantastic!
This shaved fennel salad was one of the best things I’ve eaten in months. Every bite is super-refreshing and instantly crave-worthy. I make a somewhat heartier shaved Brussels sprouts salad with grapes and goat cheese that features a similar play on natural sweetness combined with saltier, acidic ingredients. It’s so good!
But here’s the thing that REALLY shocked me abou this salad: It contains celery, and I still love it.
Who loves celery?
I’m shy to admit this, but while Familystyle Food does not discriminate on the basis of produce, celery just hasn’t been A-Number One on my favorites list.
Celery has such a strong herbaceous taste that it can overwhelm the tastebuds. And I’m not the only one who feels that way, apparently.
According to my (un)official survey, lots of people have a
love mostly hate relationship with celery.
In fact, even some official surveys tell the story: Celery rates number 3 on the Most Hated Vegetable List.
But this salad! Who knew that adding celery to a simple fennel salad would bring new heights of deliciousness?? Mind blown.
What does fennel taste like?
- Fresh bulb fennel, often tagged Florentine fennel or anise in produce markets, has a distinctive flavor.
- Fennel tastes very much like tarragon, which has strong notes of anise (or anise seed) and licorice.
- The raw bulb is aromatic, refreshingly crunchy and sweet, making it perfect to use in fennel salad with apples or similar fruits in the fall and winter.
Some of my absolute favorite recipes feature fennel — it adds a special herbal background note and fresh crunch to just about any dish.
Raw fennel in salad is a delight, especially shaved into whisper thin slices and tangled into this Winter Salad. It’s also delicious paired with arugula, which adds a nutty and slightly bitter flavor.
On the other hand, cooked or roasted fennel mellows into something milder and equally delicious.
Ingredients for fresh fennel salad:
- Cheese: Look for firm-textured young sheep or goat’s milk cheese such as Pecorino Toscano, goat Gouda, or Cacio de Roma. Otherwise, a good Parmigiano Reggiano will do the trick!
- Medjool dates: If your dates are not soft and pliable, soak in hot water for 10-15 minutes first.
- Lemon: You need the grated zest plus fresh squeezed juice.
- Celery stalks with leaves.
- Fennel bulb: Look for plump white bulbs with stalks and fronds attached.
- Red onion
- Walnuts: Toast for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven before crushing under a heavy skillet or chopping with a knife.
- Salt: Sea salt or kosher salt.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
How to shave fennel for salad
- Cut off the stalks where they meet the bulb (you can save them to use in stocks or soup like bouillabaisse).
- Reserve any feathery fronds that look fresh and pretty, giving them a quick rinse and towel dry before using.
- Rinse the bulb, then use a handy swivel peeler to trim off the outer layer of the bulb, which can be fibrous.
- Slice the bulb in half.
- Make thin slices either by sliding the cut side on slicer (I highly recommend this mandoline), or lay cut side down on a board and use a large, sharp knife.
- Be sure to save the fennel fronds! The wispy tops can be used as a pretty garnish for your salad or for soups and pasta dishes.
Shaved Fennel Salad with Lemon and Celery
- 1 large (470 g) (or 2 small) fennel bulbs , stalks trimmed off and fronds reserved
- 3 (50 g) celery stalks, rinsed, plus leaves reserved separately
- ½ (75 g) red onion
- ½ cup mint or Italian parsley leaves
- ½ cup (60 g) toasted unsalted walnuts, chopped* (see note below)
- 4 (95 g) Medjool dates, pitted and diced
- 4 ounces goat Gouda or Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- Flaky kosher or sea salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Peel the base of the fennel bulb with a swivel vegetable peeler to remove the tougher outer layer. Slice the fennel very thinly using a sharp knife or shave on a mandoline. Add to a large platter or shallow serving bowl.
- Trim off the very top and base of the celery stalks and slice in half horizontally. Lay them flat on a work surface, using a swivel peeler to make thin strips. When the stalks are too whittled down to peel, use a knife to slice the remaining stalk into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the strips and pieces to the bowl along with the red onion and mint. Tangle everything together.
- To serve, top the fennel mixture with the walnuts, dates, cheese, lemon zest and a big pinch of salt. Toss gently, then add the lemon juice and a good drizzle of oil. Toss again and tasted, adding more salt, lemon juice or olive oil to taste.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- To toast walnuts: Heat in a 350 degree oven on a small baking sheet or heatproof skillet for 10-12 minutes.
- To prepare the salad ahead: Put the sliced fennel, celery and onion in a bowl with 1 cup ice cubes. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 day ahead. When ready to serve, drain and spin dry, add to a serving bowl and assemble with remaining ingredients.
Hey, I’m Karen
Creator of Familystyle Food
I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about making cooking fun and doable, with easy to follow tested recipes and incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.