This salad feels so clean. So fresh. It takes its inspiration from the Japanese. It’s a nice change of pace from the arugula and kale and chard and spinach I’ve been eating so much of over the last several months. I love fennel. I think some people are resistant to it because of a prejudice against anything with anise flavor. But raw fennel is closer in flavor to basil than to licorice on the anise spectrum. It’s mild and crunchy and faintly sweet.
And when it is shaved paper-thin it makes a wonderful base for a salad. It’s possible to do this with a sharp chef’s knife, and I’ve done it that way many times, but it’s so much more efficient and easier to get uniform thinness with a mandoline. As of my birthday last month thanks to Dan’s parents I am the proud new owner of this baby, and having it available makes me want to make shaved fennel salads all the time. (I just need to watch my fingers. It’s sharp!)
Lots of fennel salads stick to the classic dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. But this one goes with a bolder lime-sesame-soy vinaigrette. It gets some heat from sriracha and citrus kosho (the latter is totally optional, but it’s a nice way to use it if you have some). The shaved carrots add more crunch and color and the avocado adds a creamy richness to dish.
The sprinkling of pan fried quinoa adds the most wonderful texture. It’s crisp and light and gives way with a pop when it’s between your teeth. This makes extra and I’ve been popping the leftovers as a snack on its own. The flat leaf parsley gives the dish a fresh herbaceous note. I think shiso or mint would be right at home here too.
Dan said that this reminded him of the experience of eating sushi, what with the soy sauce and the kind of heat you get from wasabi and the texture of the shaved carrots and fennel reminiscent of pickled ginger. I think there’s something to the comparison.
Shaved Fennel, Carrot, and Avocado Salad with Lime-Sesame-Soy Vinaigrette and Crispy Quinoa
For the crispy quinoa:
- 1/4 cup dried quinoa
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- kosher salt
For the salad:
- 2 medium fennel bulbs tops and core removed, sliced paper thin
- 2 medium carrots peeled, sliced paper thin
- 1 avocado on the slightly firmer side of ripe, sliced thin
- leaves small handful of flat leaf parsley stems removed and chopped
For the lime-sesame-soy vinaigrette:
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons citrus kosho or yuzu kosho optional
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sriracha increase to 1/2 teaspoon if not using kosho
- pinch of kosher salt
- At least an hour ahead of time, make the crispy quinoa. In a medium saucepan, cover the quinoa with a few inches of salted water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until quinoa is just tender. About 12-13 minutes. Drain well through a fine mesh strainer and spread out in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet to dry out for at least a half hour. Heat oil in a large skillet until shimmering, add the quinoa and pan fry until it is completely dry and crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Add a pinch of kosher salt and set aside to cool completely. Can be made up to five days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, rice vinegar, sugar, citrus kosho (if using), sesame oil, sriracha, and salt.
- In a medium bowl, toss together the fennel and carrots and parsley until well mixed. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad. Add the avocado and toss gently to distribute.
- Divide between plates, and sprinkle with crispy quinoa, to taste.