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Saturday, October 18, 2008

cabbage and fennel salad with apples and raisins


haven’t you always wanted a mandoline?

What tools do I use most in my kitchen? Well, I have a small arsenal of sharp knives, a variety of big and small metal and glass bowls, and a stack of heavy, non-stick baking sheets. I also own an array of heavy pots and pans from small to absolutely gigantic. Add a couple of spatulas, a wooden spoon, a cutting board, and a knife sharpener, and that’s really all I need, right?

Well, you understand that NEEDING and WANTING are altogether different. And I have to admit, I have some kitchen equipment that doesn’t exactly get used every day. I try to keep the gadgets and kitchen clutter to a minimum—in fact, I go through my kitchen drawers way more often than, say, my sock drawer, or the junk drawer with all the pens and pencils. But I have are few tools that, while not absolutely necessary, are a joy to use, and I love them!

A few examples of these fun things: an old-fashioned citrus juicer, my immersion blender, a coffee grinder that I use for spices, and best of all: a mandoline. Do you know what I mean by a mandoline? It’s a vegetable slicer with an adjustable blade in a frame; I have a nice, heavy version in stainless steel. While I’m pretty speedy with a sharp chef’s knife, the mandoline makes a couple of things really easy that I have never mastered on my own. First, I can cut paper-thin slivers of fennel for salads. (Raw fennel is only edible when sliced very thinly—and then it’s absolutely delicious!) Second, I can slice thick, even slabs of zucchini for grilling. And if I needed a third reason? The mandoline makes slicing a huge heap of onions really FUN…  How often have you felt that way dismantling onions? Haven’t you always wanted a mandoline?

I pined for a mandoline for several years before finally buying one (the good ones are pretty spendy), and I’ve never regretted the investment. Other gadgets I’ve bought over the years end up gathering dust on my basement shelves, but the mandoline is here to stay.

The following recipe is one that you can use to justify the purchase of a brand-new mandoline (whether you need to rationalize it to yourself, or to your sweetie). You can use the mandolin for the fennel AND the cabbage! And just one last note—a good mandolin is really, really sharp. And although it’s fun to use, it’s also kind of dangerous, so don’t slice with reckless abandon…


cabbage & fennel salad with apples & raisins

This salad is SO tasty—the savory toasted fennel seeds are so yummy with the licoricey raw fennel, and sweetened with apples and raisins, it’s crunchy and delicious!  It’s based on a similar salad in Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast. When eating fennel raw, cutting it very thinly is the key. If you have ever been tempted to buy a mandoline, here’s your excuse! But you can get nice thin fennel slices with a chef’s knife, too, as long as it’s very sharp. 

Because of the lemon juice in the salad, the apples don’t brown, and this salad tastes great the next day—so don’t worry if it makes more than you think you can eat all at once. Serve this salad with the barley & beet risotto, in the previous post—it’s a fantastic match.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted in a small skillet, then ground
½ to 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large bulb fennel, root end trimmed and sliced paper thin, some fronds chopped
½ small head green cabbage, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 sweet red apple, unpeeled, cored and cut into matchsticks
generous ¼ cup raisins (or more to taste)

1. In a salad bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, ground fennel seeds, and salt. Season with pepper.
2. Add the fennel, cabbage, apple, and raisins and toss to combine. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed, and serve.


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