Spring Salad with Fennel, Radishes and Herbs

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While reading the WSJ Weekender this morning I came across this recipe for a refreshing spring herb salad.

I assume fennel and radishes are not the most popular ingredients. But they deserve their time in the spotlight because they each can provide abundant flavor for seemingly innocuous vegetables. I love to add fennel or fennel seed to pasta dishes, specifically those with ragu like sauces – it’s that bright note that every pasta dish needs. Or served with any citrus fruit in a salad, perhaps with shaved parmesan. And I love the simplicity of a spring radish. My dear friend, Chef Jonathon Sawyer of Greenhouse Tavern, offered radishes and butter on his starter menu for years – so simple, so delicious!

While I haven’t tried this recipe yet, I intend to soon (perhaps when we return from Disney). Enjoy and special thanks to the WSj Weekender and Julia Reed.

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon of salt
4-1/2 to 5 tablespoons lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons of minced lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon of fennel seeds, crushed under a spoon and minced (or pull out your mortar and pestle that you registered for during your wedding but have yet to find a use for 🙂
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black peper

For the salad:
1 head butter or Boston lettuce, leaves separated. (this is by far one of my most favorite lettuce’s – so tender, it is the perfect accompaniment to and spring salad mix, my mom taught me this. I could never figure out why her salads dressing simply with Italian dressing were far superior to my salads – it’s the butter lettuce!)
2 bunches watercress, thick stems removed
1 head Belgian endive, end trimmed and outer leaves removed
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves
3/4 cup mint leaves
1 bulb fennel, sliced very thin (please do slice these thin – another opportunity to use a registry item, your mandolin slicer!) + 2 tablespoons fennel fronds chopped (the airy green part that looks like fresh dill)
10 radishes sliced thin (with your mandolin again, maybe?)

What to do:
Make dressing in a bowl, mix shallots, salt, lemon juice, lemon peel and fennel seeds. Whisk in oil and season with salt and pepper.

Put all salad ingredients in a bowl and toss gently with about 1/2 the dressing. Serve and offer the balance of the dressing for individual preference – I dislike an overdressed salad!

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