This fennel and pear salad is simple, delicious recipe great for summertime, especially for those like my grandmother who hated “running the stove” during the Texas summers since the kitchen and adjacent rooms got super hot. Now for those with larger homes this may not be an issue, but when you are square foot challenged and absent of central AC this is a real problem. Since you’re technically not “cooking” the ingredients there is no need for a heat source.
More importantly this fennel salad is simple and healthy, and tasty. The key is choosing sweet, ripe pears as it pairs well with the paper-thin shaved fennel and the tart citrus vinaigrette. If you’re not familiar with fennel it is highly aromatic and provides a light, crisp taste. Though it brings a lot to the table from a health and taste perspective, it is a highly slept on food item. I liken fennel to one of my favorite songs – Heatwave’s “Star of the Story”. Heatwave was a great band from the 70’s featuring incredible production by the legendary Rod Temperton who is more known for his work with Michael Jackson. Heatwave had hits like “Always and Forever”, “Boogie Nights”, and “Ain’t No Half Steppin” which my uncles listened to regularly but I didn’t discover “Star of the Story” until my high school years when I started purchasing, listening and finding my own ear. I remember thinking “why wasn’t this in my uncles’ rotations?” This in my humble opinion is their best song! So, not only should you listen to more Heatwave, but I encourage you all to make fennel more the star of your culinary and wellness story.
We eat it a lot in our house and it’s actually one of my wife’s favorite foods. Fennel is popular in French and Italian cuisine and similar to celery visually and texturally, but flavor wise sweeter and much more edible. Fennel is also a great source of fiber which makes it advantageous for both digestion and maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream. Translation – it helps stimulate elimination of the “bad” LDL cholesterol which is a driver in heart disease and strokes. Similarly it’s high levels of potassium, which essentially helps relax the tension in your blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure. Why do we care about this? Because high blood pressure leads to and/or complicates many other health issues like stroke, heart health, and diabetes.
To peel or not peel? I do not suggest peeling the pear as it is rich in vitamin C – a cancer-busting vitamin – and pectin which lowers cholesterol. Since most of these nutrients are found just below the skin it is advisable to cook and eat the with the peel on. Additionally, there are many other health benefits including heart health and anti-inflammatory properties.
I typically round out the dish with “pepitas” which are the seeds from a pumpkin. Note its the green seed that is actually inside the white shell most of us are familiar with. it’s a larger, dark green cousin of a sunflower seed kernel. Pepitas give the salad a crunch while the cheese supplies a certain level of saltiness and tartness.
Shaved Fennel and Pear Salad
For the Salad
- 1 Ripe Bosch pear cored and sliced thinly
- 1 Large fennel bulb fronds removed
- 1 cup Baby kale or spinach
- 1 tablespoon Toasted nuts or seeds (pecan, pumpkin, etc.)
- 1 tablespoon Crumbled goat cheese
For the Dressing
- 1 lemon (juiced)
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
Thinly slice fennel into a small bowl. A mandolin is a perfect tool to get nice evenly sliced fennel and for the pears as well.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Quickly toast nuts in heated skillet
In a larger bowl, toss together the pears, kale, and fennel with the dressing.
Serve in shallow bowls with toasted nuts and crumbled cheese