This salad is all about the details. When carefully constructed, it provides bursts of acid, umami and crunch.
A couple of quick tips: When toasting your bread and walnuts, go a little longer than you might think for a deeper, more caramelized flavor. And if you're able to find whole fennel, use the whole thing. Remove the fibrous outer layer to reveal the more tender center. Slice the stalk very thinly, preferably on a mandoline, as they are usually fibrous, and save some of the fronds to sprinkle atop the salad.
To learn more, read "Fin City."
Fennel Salad with Bread Crumbs, Walnuts and Anchovy Vinaigrette
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
2 cups torn country loaf bread
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt, to taste
½ cup walnuts
5 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, broken into small chunks
2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced using a mandoline, stalks thinly sliced
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup packed fennel fronds (optional)
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, torn
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Zest of 1 lemon
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. On a parchment-lined sheet tray, arrange the bread pieces, toss them with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, then season with salt. Toast until the bread is deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and transfer to a food processor. Pulse the bread until it is finely ground but still has some irregular pieces. Transfer the bread crumbs to a mixing bowl and set aside.
2. Place the walnuts on the sheet tray and toast until fragrant and brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Chop the walnuts roughly and transfer to the bowl with the bread crumbs.
3. In a small bowl, combine the anchovies, garlic and sherry vinegar. Season with salt and allow to macerate for 10 minutes before stirring in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
4. To assemble the salad, place the fennel in a large mixing bowl. Toss the bread crumbs, walnuts and cheese with the anchovy vinaigrette before adding to the fennel. Add the white wine vinegar and lemon juice to the salad, then season with salt and toss until dressed. Add the fennel fronds, mint, chives, lemon zest and crushed red pepper flakes and toss again. Serve immediately.