Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables. With a mild anise flavor that some describe as a slightly licorice celery, fennel is great raw or cooked, as the centerpiece of a dish or in the background. But for all of its versatility, I must admit that I rely on Italian-influenced preparations: shaved in salad with pecorino, braised in orange juice, breaded and fried ala fritto misto. So I challenged myself to do something different with fennel, to use it in a decidedly American dish: cole slaw.
I used red apple to balance fennel’s crisp, delicate flavor. It lent a sweetness, the way carrot does in traditional slaw, but with a tart little kick. (You can use green apple to shift the balance slightly from sweet to tart.) With fennel and apple in my bowl, I began looking through my fridge for more. Then it occurred to me: Fennel and apple is all I need. Hearty, crisp, sweet and tart. All the elements for cole slaw were in place. I just needed a simple dressing.
If you’ve never cooked with fennel before, look for firm, crisp bulbs without any brown spots. The stalks and fronds should be a bright, light green. Remove the fronds (which make a great garnish) and cut the stalk from the bulb before cutting slices as thick as you like. For this recipe, shave the fennel as thinly as possible. If you have one, use a mandolin.
Fennel and Apple Slaw
2 large fennel bulbs, thinly shaved
1 large apple, thinly julienned
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp plain yogurt (ideally, Greek-style)
1 tsp mayonnaise
1 tsp honey
2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
salt and pepper
1. Combine shaved fennel and julienned apple in a bowl.
2. Whisk together remaining ingredients to make dressing. Toss with fennel and apple to coat. Serve right away or, if there’s time, chill for a few minutes first.