The relationship with fennel and radicchio is one of either love or hate. Radicchio for its bitter and spicy taste, and fennel for its sweet, perfumy, anise-like flavor. Fennel’s strength may however be its power to blend well and enhance other flavors. It is fabulous when combined with garlic, tomatoes, onion, or as in this recipe, with apples, lemon and bitter greens, such as radicchio or arugula.
The first time I ever heard about fennel was from reading Asterix and Obelix. There was the one story when Asterix stole the bay leave (laurels) victory crown from Caesar and had to replace it, so what did he do? He replaced it with fennel fronds. It was never detected in Rome, but the funniest thing was that thereafter Caesar complained that he smelled grilled fish wherever he went. I wouldn’t say that fennel smells anything like fish, nor does it have a potent scent. Funny that Caesar could smell it over anything else since I’m pretty sure bathing wasn’t a daily ritual in Roman times. Okay, anything is possible in a comic.
Being a fan of fennel, I love the combination of that lovely anise flavor together with slightly bitter radicchio, sweet apple and lemon tanginess. An absolute flavor party!
Fresh radicchio rosso di Treviso is best with this recipe. It resembles a large red Belgian endive and has crisp, tangy leaves. Make sure radicchio leaves are fresh looking and bright. I find older, dryer leaves taste more bitter.
FENNEL, RADICCHIO AND APPLE SALAD
For the salad:
1 large fennel bulb, stems removed and cut into slices
1 head radicchio, chopped (preferably radicchio rosso di Treviso, which resembles a large red Belgian endive and has crisp, tangy leaves)
1 Braeburn apple, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
For the dressing:
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 shallot, minced
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a bowl.
2. In a medium bowl, combine fennel, radicchio and apple. Toss with the dressing directly before serving.