I think you’ll be surprised by how well this simple little salad pulls together on the plate.  Be sure the mushrooms are fresh so they show white and firm beside the pale green fennel.

Serves 4

  • 2 small fennel bulbs (about 1 pound)
  • ½ pound mushrooms
  • 3 ounces oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 ounces wedge of Parmesan cheese

For the vinaigrette:

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup olive oil

1. Make the vinaigrette: Whisk the lemon juice with the mustard, salt and pepper, then gradually whisk in the oil so the vinaigrette emulsifies and thickens slightly.  Taste and adjust seasoning (remember the olives and Parmesan cheese will be salty).

2. Trim the stem and root of the fennel bulbs, reserving 4 tops for decoration, and halve them through the root. Slice them very thinly, cutting through stem and root, so the root holds each slice together.  Toss with about half of the vinaigrette and marinate ½ to 1 hour.

3.  Trim the stems of the mushrooms level with the caps and wipe the caps with a damp cloth.  Set them stem side down on the cutting board and slice them as thinly as possible.  Toss with the fennel mixture.   Add the olives, parsley, and the rest of the vinaigrette and mix gently.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

4.  Pile the salad on 4 plates and decorate with the fennel tops. Hold the wedge of Parmesan cheese over each plate and with a vegetable peeler shave a few thin curls on top.

GETTING AHEAD: The fennel can be sliced ahead and left to marinate up to an hour, but the mushrooms and parsley should be added just before serving.

From The Good Cook: 70 Essential Techniques, 250 Step-by-Step Photographs, 350 Recipes by Anne Willan. Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2004.
Photo CREDIT: Alison Harris.