Fennel, readers may be surprised to learn (unless they are devotees of britishfoodinamerica) is one of the oldest vegetables cultivated in Britain. It now is underutilized, either cooked or raw, there and in the United States. It is good to see this standard on the menu of the West Town Tavern in Chicago, and even better to taste it after it comes to table. A mandoline is extremely useful here. Six individual salads.
-2 bulbs of fennel with their fronds and stems removed, then shaved across the grain into the thinnest slices
-½ lb mushrooms sliced into the thinnest ‘Ts’
-about 1cup white radishes sliced into the thinnest long stripes
-about ½ cup minced scallion greens
-about 4 Tablespoons lemon juice or malt vinegar
-scant 4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-generous ½ teaspoon coarse salt (like Maldon) and pepper
- Toss the vegetables together gently so that they do not break apart.
- Whisk to emulsify the lemon juice or vinegar and oil with the salt and pepper.
- Gently toss the salad with its dressing and check the seasoning; a little more salt is a good idea.
- The Editor uses a higher proportion of acid to oil in salad dressing than a lot of cooks, and likes malt vinegar more than they do too. The original recipe uses three parts lemon juice to four of oil and another two parts truffle oil.
- Proportions here are permeable; use what you like.
- It is de rigeur among food fascists at the moment to decry the use of truffle oil; we like it, and it works here. We have omitted it from the base recipe not because we are cowed but only because, in these times of hardship, it is expensive. Truffle oil adds particular appeal to this salad but not, we believe, in the original proportions. For four Tablespoons of acid, the Editor suggests a scant three of the olive and one of truffle oil, but the fractals are up to you.
- If you do not find white radishes, use red ones.
- The mushrooms are not a crucial element of the salad; you could omit them or substitute orange sections. Do not use truffle oil with orange.
- We have added the scallions to the original salad.
Photo from The West Town Tavern/Dan Dry