Growing up in Ukraine, cucumbers and radishes were staple summer vegetables in my life. But when I met fennel – which was, sadly, all too recently – I was like, “Damn, girl. Where you been all my life?”
Fennel doesn’t typically get a whole lot of play on restaurant menus or in food media and I wonder why. Is its anise flavor off-putting? Are people confused by what to do with its ample stalks and fronds?! What do you think, people? Do you cook with fennel?
Fennel’s fresh floral taste and crunch is the perfect complement to grilled meats or fatty fish (like salmon), which makes it an ideal addition to summer salads destined for outdoor cookouts. I first served this cucumber radish salad on Mother’s Day when I had my family over for lunch. These herb and feta flatbreads were also on the menu and the two got along famously.
When purchasing fennel, look for bright white firm bulbs without brown spots; the attached stalks and fronds should be bright green and firm. Most recipes will tell you to discard the stalks and fronds – don’t do it. They are both completely edible! The stalks have an anise-like flavor and fiberous texture, and can be used in place of celery when making stock. The fronds have a slightly more delicate flavor that is comparable to dill; I used them directly in the salad.
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 large fennel bulb with its fronds (reserve stalks for later use)
- 1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on a diagonal
- 1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons organic cold-pressed canola oil
- Sea salt, to taste
- In a small skillet, toast caraway seeds over medium-low heat until fragrant, tossing occasionally, about 4 minutes.
- To prepare fennel, slice the stalk portion off the bulb. Pick off fronds. (Store leftover stalks as you would celery, fronds as you would fresh herbs). Quarter the fennel bulb lengthwise and thinly slice each quarter.
- In a large bowl, combine sliced fennel, 2 generous handfuls fennel fronds, cucumber, radishes, caraway seeds, vinegar and oil. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with extra fronds. Serve immediately.