I really hate to write about food that requires any sort of special equipment to be successful. I haven’t written up my favorite honey-saffron ice cream recipe or about the crazy pasta shapes I love or anything that might require a tool that falls into the realm of food geekiness. (That would include, for example, my ice cream maker and the pasta attachment on the KitchenAid.) A mandoline slicer falls into a category of esoteric kitchen equipment that most people don’t have much use for. Few people feel they need to julienne or shave things wafer-thin. So initially I was a little reluctant to write about this fennel salad.
But here is fall, misty and damp. Leaves are on the brink of yellow. The air is beginning to cool and local apples are appearing in the market, crisp and sweet-tart. Rubenesque end-of-summer heirloom tomatoes are a thing of the past. (I was getting a little sick of them anyway!) Now we’ll have a heap of paper thin fennel threaded with slivers of apple, shavings of sharp cheese and studded with toasted hazelnuts, all dressed tartly in cider vinaigrette. If you are serving the salad with something beige or brown like roast chicken, you may want to add a handful or two of arugula which looks gorgeous and is also intriguingly bitter against the floral fennel and the sweet apple. This is a salad for fall. If you don’t have a mandoline, you’d better sharpen your best chef’s knife, take a deep breath and get ready to slice.
White Fall Salad: Fennel, Apple, White Cheddar and Hazelnut
- 1 apple – I like pink lady but honeycrisp is also very good, in matchstick julienne
- 1 fennel bulb, cored and sliced as thinly as you can manage
- about 1/3 cup sharp white cheddar, shaved into very thin slices with a cheese slicer (or a vegetable peeler!)
- a handful of hazelnuts, toasted for a few minutes in a skillet over medium heat (please don’t burn them)
- optional: a handful or 2 of arugula leaves
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp cider vinegar (I like Bragg’s)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- a few grindings pepper
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard