The closest I ever came to fennel before adulthood was the occasional appearance at holidays. It was served raw, in slices, as a digestive between dinner and dessert, and we called it by its Italian name finocchio. Of course, we pronounced it with our Brooklyn Italian-American slang, where the end vowels are always left off. You know, mozzarella becomes mozzarell, or sometimes simply mozz (with the “o” always pronounced more like a short “u”). Ricotta is ricott, with the “c” taking on a hard “g” sound. You get the idea.
Language lessons aside, let’s get back to my original intention here: fennel. Its fragrant black licorice flavor was an acquired taste for me, but I’ve become quite smitten with it the last few years. The key to fennel, at least for me, is to slice it paper thin. Almost enough so that you can see through it. That would’ve been my preference for this fennel & mint slaw, but laziness got the best of me, and I didn’t feel like taking out my mandolin the day I set out to photograph this recipe.
Fennel is one of those ingredients that takes on a whole new taste when shaved thinly. The licorice notes seemingly more delicate. That said, I say slice this as you like. If you prefer a crispy crunch to your slaw, then a thicker slice as pictured might be more to your liking. If you want to cheat this recipe into being a relish, then use a box grater, shred it, and let the slaw sit in the fridge 1 to 2 days so the fennel can pickle a bit from the acidity in the dressing. My friend Marina calls this a “cooked” salad. I bet it would be perfect topped on grilled sausages. You can swap in agave or maple syrup for honey if you want to make it vegan friendly.
You can bulk up this fennel & mint slaw with some chickpeas for protein, and a few shavings of Pecorino, transforming it into a salad reminiscent of the one in my cookbook, Homemade with Love. By the way, I’ve been meaning to mention that personalized copies of my book are available here. Soon, I’ll be sharing one of my favorite ways to serve this, as a base for a simple poached salmon. Stay tuned.
Fennel & Mint Slaw
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus more for frying leeks
- 1 leek, thinly sliced
- Fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoon (30 ml) cider vinegar
- 1½ teaspoons (10 grams) honey
- ½ teaspoon Dijon (2 grams)
- Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 15 mint leaves, chopped
- 1 bulb (12 ounces) of fennel, thinly sliced
- Add a swirl of oil to a small skillet, just enough to coat the bottom. Add the leeks, and season with salt. Cook gently, over medium-low heat, until the leeks are tender and translucent, 7 to 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Add 3 tablespoons of oil, the vinegar, honey, Dijon, and lemon juice to a deep bowl. Whisk until well blended. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the leeks, mint, and fennel to the bowl with the dressing. Toss until well coated. Serve immediately, or store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 4 hours.
Some more slaw inspired recipes from my friends at Food Network’s Summer Soiree:
Creative Culinary: Apple and Poppy Seed Coleslaw
The Mediterranean Dish: Mediterranean Coleslaw and Salmon Bowl
The Mom 100: Spicy Coleslaw
Devour: 5 Ways to Make Your Picnic Slawsome
The Wimpy Vegetarian: Vegan Mango – Melon Slaw with Ginger and Lime
The Heritage Cook: Variations on Coleslaw – How To Make It Your Own (Gluten-Free)
Taste with the Eyes: Ode to the Fish Taco – Fancy Halibut with Cabbage Slaw
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Raw Papaya and Green Mango Slaw
Healthy Eats: 7 Summer Slaws That Put the Store-Bought Stuff to Shame
FN Dish: 8 Ways to Be in Awe of Slaw