Charred Fennel Salad with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan
Truth be told, when I’m cooking for friends and family, I’m on the grill, I’m making fresh pasta, I’m at the stove making sauces, or sautéing. I’m never the guy focused on sides or vegetables, and wouldn't be caught anywhere near salad prep. I mean, who wants a salad when you could be eating a giant slab of meat, right? Well, this grilled salad is not only delicious but also very hearty and satisfying. It also helps on the waistline...
At first, when I started testing this recipe, I was in search of a veggie that was equal parts yummy, and also filling enough to fill me up so I'm not looking for a cheeseburger 20 minutes later. I started with artichoke, which is also a delightful addition to this recipe, but left me looking for something texturally denser and just different. I finally landed on fennel bulbs, but I was standoffish at first because it reminded me of shaving fennel onto salads with my trusty mandolin working the Garde station of some Italian restaurant in Hoboken, or SoHo, or FiDi, who can remember? They were all soul-crushing experiences.
But finally, I wouldn’t allow the PTSD of angry chefs during dinner rush to get the best of me any longer. I started caramelizing, roasting, and eventually grilling fennel. It’s a dense, hearty, and delicious vegetable that for me, adds a level of satisfying flavor and texture to a salad. It will give you hints, or in my case trick me, into thinking I’m eating a link of sausage. Fennel seeds, usually roasted, are what give many types of sausage their distinct flavors. Hey, anything I can make on the grill is going to make me happy, so why not grill a salad, right?
Here's my take on a delicious summer meal or side depending on portion, and whatever else is being grilled up that day.
For the Salad
2-4 fennel bulbs (depending on size), sliced in half lengthwise to expose the large surface area in the center
2 Radicchio cut into quarters with the hard center removed
4 Endives sliced in half lengthwise
fresh herbs like basil, parsley, cilantro, dill, and reserved fennel fronds
Zonk Foods Rosemary Lemon Infused Salt
Parmigiano Reggiano shavings
- Trim stalks and fronds from fennel bulbs and reserve for other use (Stalks can be sliced thin and caramelized in EVOO and butter, and fronds are a perfect garnish for this salad.
- Remove the outermost layer from the fennel bulbs. They are dirty and tough.
- Holding your fennel bulb upright, cut ¼ inch slices vertically from top to bottom, exposing maximum inner surface area for charring.
- Cut the radicchio into 4 wedges, then slice the hard white center from each corner.
- Cut endives in half vertically to create two long halves.
- Using a paring knife, score the endive by making shallow diagonal slices across the inner surface in both directions creating small diamonds along the entire surface. This helps allow seasoning, oil, and dressing to penetrate, as well as deeper charring, and if I’m being perfectly honest, it looks nice.
- Lay all veggies rounded side down on a cutting board, and drizzle with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkling of Rosemary Lemon Infused Salt.
- Place everything flat or face side down on a medium hot grill, grill pan, or saute pan. Yes, I know the radicchio wedges have two flat surfaces, so start on one flat surface and turn once the first side has charred. The fennel is much denser than the leafier endive and radicchio so it will cook the longest, about 8 minutes. The endive should only take a few minutes, and once each has acquired a nice deep char on each, remove from heat. If you are working with large fennel bulbs, you may want to place them in a preheated 350 oven to finish cooking.
- As soon as you remove veg from the heat, sprinkle with more Rosemary Lemon Infused Salt, and dress with Lemon Honey Ginger Dressing.
- Garnish with the shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano, fennel fronds, and whichever fresh herbs your little heart desires!
- Delicious slightly warm or at room temperature.
For the Lemon Honey Ginger Dressing
¾ Cup EVOO
¼ Cup Red Wine Vin
2-3 Cloves Raw Garlic
2 Tbsp Peeled Ginger
1 Tbsp Honey
Juice from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Salad dressings always seem harder to make than they really are, which is why everyone buys them bottled at the grocery store with all those artificial flavors and preservatives.
- In a food processor or good blender, turn on the blade, and begin by dripping in whole garlic cloves, peeled ginger, and roughly cut shallot.
- Through the opening at the top, slowly pour in red wine vinegar and lemon juice.
- Stop the blade, add your honey, then return your blade to On.
- Using the opening in the top, slowly add your oil in a slow, consistent stream. Add more or less depending on how liquidy or thick you like your dressing.
- Salt and pepper to taste, and you’re all done!