Shaved fennel is a cliché in Italian restaurants here, but when done correctly, it’s dear to my heart. I am a confessed fennel-holic and cannot get enough of its fresh crisp anise flavor. It is nearly epic when matched with winter fruits like pomegranates and blood oranges, but it works with apples in the fall and cherries in the late spring as well.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
2 large round fennel bulbs, trimmed, and several fennel fronds set aside
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large blood oranges, peeled and segmented
1 cup pomegranate seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
An 8-ounce chunk hard pecorino, such as sardo or toscano, for shaving
1. Using a mandoline or other vegetable slicer, shave the fennel crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Place in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice and olive oil. Add the blood orange segments, pomegranate seeds, and fennel fronds and toss gently to mix. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Arrange the fennel salad on four individual plates. Shave the pecorino in long shards over each plate, and serve.
Using a paring knife, cut off the top and bottom of the fruit to expose the flesh. Stand the fruit upright on the work surface and, with your knife, carefully remove the skin and bitter white pith, working vertically from top to bottom and following the natural round shape of the fruit, turning it as you go. Carefully trim away any remaining pith.
To segment, hold the fruit over a bowl to catch the juices, and cut down along either side of the membrane to free each section of fruit. Then, if the recipe also calls for the juices, squeeze the membranes over the bowl to extract the remaining juices.