Thursday, 19 March 2015

Fennel, feta and pomegranate salad

Fennel, feta and pomegranate salad

Fennel is a vegetable that I like but don't buy and prepare very often because it's not much appreciated by the rest of the family: my son eats very few types of vegetables - excluding potato, or better fries, I would say he has only cucumbers, tomatoes (preferably on pasta as a sauce) and not much more - while my husband, who is a vegetables lover, prefers anyway other varieties.
In spite of this, especially when it's in season (by the way now at the Farmers Market it's still possible to find some good fennel), I buy it once in a while. Because, even if I know several persons who do not like fennel - I don't know, maybe it's a coincidence - I appreciate its aromatic, lightly sweet taste as well as the crunchy texture: to preserve both characteristics I like it steamed for few minutes, just until the color begins to change, and served just with extra virgin olive oil.
But it is also good raw in salads, finely sliced or chopped, in soups, or roasted, sauteed, baked as a side dish; and it is also delicious when combined with other ingredients to make more complex, rich and nutritious dishes, like savory pies and tarts, or baked gratin (in a popular Italian recipe boiled fennel are baked with bechamel, parmigiano or another grated cheese and, optionally, prosciutto or ham), or stuffed veggies with meat or cheese, or even battered and deep-fried.
The recipes I prefer are anyway those in which fennel is not cooked for a long time or overwhelmed by other ingredients or condiments; in particular I like the combination with ingredients able to enhance and complement to fennel peculiar flavor.

Recently I much appreciated a seafood salad with fennel and lime (recipe here), that made even a fennel-hating friend change her mind so that, after helping herself with the salad several times, she said "and I actually didn't like fennel"!
After that recipe, from "Ottolenghi The Cookbook" (yes, again!), I wanted to try another fennel salad from the same book (a favorite of mine as readers of the blog already know) that revealed to be another winning combination. Fennel is mixed here with two other perfectly matching main ingredients: on one side feta cheese whose strong taste and saltiness balance the lightly sweet and aniseed flavor of fennel, one the other side pomegranate seeds which add a right level of refreshing acidity; everything dressed with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice and sumac - a Middle Eastern spice that I like very much. Some fresh herbs, parsley and zaatar (originally tarragon), add color and a nice complementary flavor.

Very quick and easy to prepare, this salad can be a good solution for a light and healthy lunch (but only if you can eat at home, as it is best served immediately after preparation) but also as an appetizer (I served it as a part of mezze) or a side dish. As the salad is very "juicy", don't forget to serve it along some good bread. 
Fennel, feta and pomegranate salad


Fennel, feta and pomegranate salad
adapted from "Ottolenghi- The cookbook"
serves 4
½ pomegranate
2 medium fennel heads
1½ tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sumac, plus extra to garnish
juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp zaatar leaves (tarragon in the original recipe)
2 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
70 g Greek feta cheese, sliced or crushed
salt and black pepper
Start by removing the pomegranate seeds. Cut the pomegranate in half crosswise,  then hold the half in your hand with the seeds facing your palm. Over a large bowl, start bashing the back of the fruit with a wooden spoon, until the seeds just fall out (don't hit the fruit too hard or you'll bruise the seeds and break the skin). Pick out any white skin that falls in and set aside.
Whisk lemon juice with olive oil, sumac and salt in a large bowl. Season with fresh pepper. Stir in zaatar (or tarragon) and parsley.
Remove the leaves of the fennel, and keep a few for garnish. Thinly slice bulbs lengthwise with a mandoline and toss with lemon mixture. Taste for seasoning but remember the feta will add saltiness.
Arrange fennel on a single or individual serving dishes. Layer with feta, then pomegranate seeds. Sprinkle with reserved fennel fronds and additional sumac, if desired. Serve immediately.

7 comments:

  1. Lovely recipe, and a reminder that I don't eat fennel often enough. Fennel and citrus is a match made in heaven :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Erum! Your comment reminded me a recipe from Sicily where fennel, finely sliced, is combined with peeled orange segments and black olives and, of course, a generous amount of EVOO. Delicious!

      Delete
  2. Lovely combination of fennel and pomegranates. I love cooking from Ottolenhi's book...his recipes are fantastic..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ottolenghi is a great inspiration for me, I love his combinations of ingredients and the use of herbs and spices ... Thank you for stopping by, Shy!

      Delete
  3. I love anything with feta and pomegranate in it. The recipe sounds scrumptious!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Neelu! I agree, it's an amazing combination...

      Delete
  4. Fennel seems to be a really charged vegetable, either you love it or you hate it. I'm a fan but my husband still hasn't seen the light. The salad looks delicious :)

    ReplyDelete