Welcome to the salad course of my 2021 Holiday Menu. Admittedly not my favorite course but a necessary course. As I’ve mentioned before, I am no great fan of salads. I do enjoy veggies but I find a bowlful of greens to be a daunting prospect. So generally, I like to distract myself with cheese, nuts, and hunks of bread. This approach works exceptionally well when you’re making a meal out of your salad. It’s not as successful when you’re putting together a salad for a multi-course experience. Consequently, today’s Shaved Fennel Salad is a little overwhelming. It could easily be a meal on its own. But hey, it’s Christmas, so going all out is kind of the name of the game even when it comes to salad.
So, let’s start by covering everything that is in this beast of a salad. The dressing is a concoction of tahini, garlic, olive oil, rice wine vinegar, honey, ginger, and Dijon. Sure, this dressing is more than a little culturally confused, but it works. I came up with it while cleaning out my fridge. Naturally, when all your condiments are in plain sight you tend to want to play with them. And well, sometimes concocting things without a roadmap leads to a love story. This is currently my favorite salad dressing, and I wouldn’t have it if I hadn’t let myself experiment. So I definitely endorse letting yourself off the leash once and a while.
Okay, next we have green beans. I have no solid reason for including green beans. This choice was driven by a green-bean-specific craving and since I like them hot or cold, they are perfect salad fodder. I dressed them separately from the salad and perched them on top of the greens. I wanted to make sure they were thoroughly coated and easy to find once everything was plated. If you’d rather mix them in with the leafy portion of this salad, be my guest. I feel like they will likely gravitate to the bottom of the salad, though, so bear that in mind.
Now, let’s talk about those greens. To be honest, there is only one leafy green actually involved. Baby spinach is the only green to grace this salad. Can you tell I have an uneasy relationship with leafy greens? The rest of the salad base features the headliner shaved fennel and torn radicchio. I like to add radicchio to a lot of my salads because it brings such a lovely hit of bitterness to everything it touches. It’s particularly complimentary to sweet bits of protein – it provides such wonderful contrast.
And speaking of sweet bits of protein, let’s tackle the Maple Smoked Salmon. No, I’m not asking you to smoke anything. I bought this hot smoked, candied salmon and I’m not the least bit sorry. I’ve been eating this salmon around Christmas time practically my entire life. It’s the perfect starter, provided you actually like salmon. And it flakes so perfectly and is at its prime when cold (in my opinion), so like the green beans, it’s made for salads. You can get it in a few different flavors. My favorite is the peppercorn encrusted version, but I wasn’t able to find it when shopping for this salad. But if you can get it, I recommend it.
Now, we’ve arrived at the fruit. This salad boasts not one but two different kinds of grapefruit – ruby red and white. They aren’t wildly different in terms of taste but I love the color contrast. If you can’t find white, stick with the ruby red and your salad will be no worse for wear. I like grapefruit here because it echos the bitterness of the radicchio while adding a bit of juiciness. If you aren’t a grapefruit fan and you don’t mind adding a few more sweet hits to your salad, swap the grapefruit for oranges.
And finally, we have avocado wedges and pomegranate arils. I think pomegranate adds a hit of jewel-toned decadence to everything it graces. It gives this Shaved Fennel Salad a lovely tart finish as well. The avocado is there for a little creaminess and I’m physically incapable of making a salad and not inviting avocado to the party.
And I think that’s everything I included in this admittedly overloaded Shaved Fennel Salad. This is definitely a side salad that didn’t get the whole “side” memo. But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. With the salad down, we only have the main event and dessert. Hope you saved some room because this is far from over.
Shaved Fennel Salad with Maple Smoked Salmon
Rice Wine Vinegar Tahini Dressing
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger grated
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp honey
- ¾ tsp salt
Shaved Fennel Salad
- 250g (9oz) green beans
- 1 batch Rice Wine Vinegar Tahini Dressing see above
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds divided
- 1 bulb fennel shaved on a mandolin
- 1 head radicchio torn into bite-sized
- 75g (2.6oz) baby spinach
- 1 ruby red grapefruit peeled and segmented
- 1 white grapefruit peeled and segmented
- 1 avocado peeled, pitted, and cut into wedges
- 150g (5.2oz) maple smoked salmon flaked
- ½ cup pomegranate arils
For the Dressing
- Place the garlic, ginger, olive oil, vinegar, tahini, honey, Dijon mustard, salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Chill until ready to use.1 clove garlic, 1 tsp fresh ginger, ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp tahini, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp honey, ¾ tsp salt
For the Salad
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Liberally salt the water and add the green beans. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the beans are tender and a brighter shade of green. Take the beans off of the heat and immediately plunge them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.250g (9oz) green beans
- Drain the green beans and place them in a large bowl. Pour half of the dressing and half of the sesame seeds over them and toss to coat. Set them aside.1 batch Rice Wine Vinegar Tahini Dressing, 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- Place the fennel, radicchio, and spinach in a large bowl. Add the grapefruit, the remaining dressing and sesame seeds. Toss to coat.1 bulb fennel, 1 head radicchio, 75g (2.6oz) baby spinach, 1 ruby red grapefruit, 1 white grapefruit
- Transfer the dressed veg to a large platter and top with the green beans, salmon, avocado, and pomegranate arils. Serve immediately.1 avocado, 150g (5.2oz) maple smoked salmon, ½ cup pomegranate arils