This salad is one of my absolute favorites—and it’s great with winter pears. It’s based on a recipe from Annie Somerville’s Everyday Greens. I love fennel, but the key to eating raw fennel is slicing it really thinly. It’s quite a tough vegetable when raw, so if the slices aren’t thin, you really get a jaw workout. I use a mandoline—a fancy slicer that allows me to get paper-thin slices—but if you’re careful to use a very sharp knife and take your time, you can get thin enough slices by hand. (If you want more justification for buying a mandoline, see my recipe and story for the cabbage & fennel salad with apples & raisins.)
The dressing is really fun, too—it’s just pureed pears with some pear vinegar and a little olive oil and salt. SO tasty, though, and it’ll keep for a couple of days in your refrigerator if you have leftovers. I’ve found a couple of different brands of pear vinegar in grocery stores and specialty stores in town, but if you can’t find any, you can substitute 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons apple juice.
1 medium pear, peeled, cored, and chopped coarsely
6 tablespoons pear vinegar
½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
sugar, as needed
Place the pear in a blender with the vinegar and salt; puree it until smooth. Drizzle in the oil while the blender is running. Taste for salt and sweetness. If your pears weren’t very sweet, you might want to add a little sugar to the dressing, or you can add more olive oil to tame the vinegar’s sharpness. Refrigerate until ready to serve the salad.
2 large heads of lettuce, or about 10 cups of baby salad greens
1 large fennel bulb, cut in half, cored, and sliced very thinly crosswise
1-2 ripe pears
Optional garnish in winter: ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
1. Wash and dry the greens and make the dressing.
2. When you’re ready to serve the salad, cut the pear(s) in half, cut the core away, and slice thinly.
3. Put the greens and fennel into a bowl and toss them with dressing to your taste, then add the pears and toss gently. Arrange on individual plates, and if pomegranates are in season, top with their seeds.