Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fennel & Artichooke Shaved Salad

Interesting salads often leave the dinner table when cold weather sets in and nothing more than limp lettuce or pale tomatoes are in stock.  Lamentable because heavy winter stews and rich simmered dinners are complimented by something light and refreshing like a side salad.  A shaved salad is the answer and creatively transforms many ho-hum ingredients.  The main ingredient is sliced very thin-- shaved- making it easy to eat raw. 

These salads feel very sophisticated and continental but you know their humbler cousins in the form of cole slaw and carrot-raisin salads.  Just like them, shaved salads are great ahead of time sides because they benefit from a little marinating time in the dressing.   Most shaved salads use a mandolin to get the vegetables extra thin.  I’ve also used a vegetable peeler on zucchini, asparagus and radishes or even a very sharp chef’s knife to create thin slices—close to 1/16 of an inch thick is best. 

There are inexpensive vegetable slicers with good hand protection if a mandolin is out of the budget or safety range of your household.  (We put our mandolin away in favor of a simple slicer that is safer and easier to clean and maintain years ago.)

Fennel & Artichoke Shaved Salad is simple to make.  The salad is balanced by a citrus vinaigrette which mellows the raw flavors. It goes nicely with an Italian meal and you will find it on the menu of many upscale Italian restaurants.  There are lots of other fun combinations to play with—just open your vegetable drawer for inspiration. 

Fennel & Artichoke Shaved Salad
Serves 6

6 baby artichokes, raw
1 large fennel bulb
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 1/2 orange
3 ounces extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 Asian pear (or apple), sliced thin using a vegetable peeler or paring knife
1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese shavings (use a vegetable peeler to get large shavings)

  1. Prepare artichokes by peeling away outer leaves until you reach pale green leaves.  Cut off stem and tips of leaves so that only tender leaves and heart remain.  Squeeze some lemon juice over the artichokes as the they are prepared for slicing.  
  2. Using a vegetable slicer, draw the artichoke along the blade holding it so that the leaves pass through the slicer with tips up.  Place slices in a bowl and pour remaining lemon juice and half the olive oil over artichoke slices.  Lightly salt and pepper mixture.  
  3. Prepare fennel.  Peel away any discolored outer pieces of bulb.  Drag across slicer to create thin slivers of fennel.  Place in a separate bowl with orange juice and remaining olive oil. Lightly salt and pepper mixture.  
  4. Cover both bowls tightly and store at least an hour or up to 5 hours.  
  5. To serve, alternate spoonfuls of artichoke and fennel over greens.  Sprinkle with parsely and garnish with generous portions of Asian pear and Parmesan cheese.  Spoon on extra vinaigrette at the table.
Master Recipe for Shaved Salads
  • 1-2 types of raw vegetables, shaved or sliced 1/16” thick
  • Vinaigrette
Optional (add as a garnish)
  • A few shavings of a hard cheese like Parmesan, Ricotta Salata, Manchego, Aged Cheddar
  • Nuts or seeds, dried fruits including cranberries, cherries, raisins, apricots
  • Fruits including thinly sliced apple, pear, Asian pear.
  • Fresh herbs like parsley, mint, tarragon, cilantro, basil, etc
Combine sliced vegetables and dressing for a minimum of one hour.  Serve with extras.  Pass extra dressing.

More Ideas:
  • Shaved Brussels Sprouts with hazelnuts served with a lemony buttermilk dressing
  • Shaved winter squash with toasted pepitas and cheddar with a smoked chili dressing
  • Celeriac and Asian Pear in a honey-mustard vinaigrette
  • Shaved Mushrooms and Carrots over Spinach dressed with grated ginger, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar
  • Thinly sliced radishes and cucumber in equal parts water & rice wine spiked with a dash of salt and sugar (or honey)
Other candidates for shaved salads include cauliflower, red bell pepper, beets, zucchini, carrots, celery, asparagus.  Check your vegetable drawer for more possibilities.