Published On: Thu, Dec 14th, 2023

Fennel salad with a roasted garlic dressing is worth the effort

Fennel salad with a roasted garlic dressing is worth the effort
Fennel salad with a roasted garlic dressing is worth the effort


This salad is an escape from the ordinary, an extra-special dish that is sure to shine on a holiday table. The elements that make it so exceptional — an ambrosial dressing and crisp pistachio-breadcrumb topping — take a bit more effort than you might put into an everyday salad, but that’s the point and what makes it worthy of a special occasion. It’s not difficult to prepare those elements, they just require a little extra attention and time.

The recipe is from a new community cookbook that is extraordinary in its class too, “Les Dames d’Escoffier New York Cookbook: Stirring the Pot.” Like other such books, it’s a collection of members’ favorite recipes, but Les Dames is an organization composed of women in food and hospitality — including renowned chefs, cookbook authors, food editors, and restaurateurs — and the recipes in the book reflect that professionalism, while also feeling truly personal and attainable. (I am a member, and contributed a recipe to the book.) Another thing that makes this book stand out is that the profit goes toward scholarships for women starting out in the industry.

In this salad, which is adapted from the recipe contributed by chef Melissa Rodriguez, the dressing is made intoxicatingly flavorful with two ingredients that need to be prepared ahead of time — toasted, ground fennel seeds and roasted garlic.

They are simply blended with balsamic and red wine vinegars, Dijon mustard, a touch of honey, a splash of soy sauce, oregano, salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil, for a dressing so remarkably good I can’t stop thinking about it.

The pistachio topping involves toasting the chopped nuts in a skillet with dried breadcrumbs and olive oil until the mix is golden, crisp and fragrant. Torn leaves of tender greens and thinly sliced fresh fennel are coated in the dressing, then topped generously with the crisp, nutty breadcrumbs, and shavings of sharp pecorino Romano cheese (you could substitute Parmesan).

The result is an ambrosial salad that stands out as part of a festive spread, and makes a lasting impression especially for a celebratory meal.

Get the recipe: Fennel Salad With Pistachio Breadcrumbs


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