This salad is light and nutritious. It’s also loaded with fennel—three versions: the raw feathery fronds, braised bulb and toasted seeds. For those less enamored with the licorice-like flavor of the raw vegetable, use more of the cooked bulb, and less fronds. Taste as you toss the salad, and let that be your guide. Substitute candied nuts if you enjoy a hint of sweetness—I keep a bag of Trader Joe’s Candied Walnuts on hand. No need to toast them; they’re ready straight out of the package.
Quinoa is an excellent vegetarian source of protein—and a complete one, unlike most other grains. It offers a wide range of minerals and nutrients as well.
- 1 cup quinoa (any variety)
- 1 small fennel bulb
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed
- 2 green onions, finely diced
- 1 large sweet apple, diced
- 1 large handful arugula, roughly chopped or torn
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 oz feta cheese, cut into small cubes
- 1/4 cup almond or walnut pieces (or candied nuts-see headnote)
- Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes after cooking, then fluff with a fork and cool.
- Remove fennel stalks and fronds. Roughly chop one stalk and a few fronds, and place in a mixing bowl. Reserve remaining stalks for another use (they make a great herbal tea—just steep in boiling water for 5 minutes).
- Cut bulb into cubes about 1/2 inch in size. Heat one tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel bulb and yellow onion. Sauté until both are soft and beginning to turn brown, about 5 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of water, then cook the vegetables in the liquid until they are tender, about 5 minutes more. By the end of cooking the liquid will have cooked off. If it hasn’t, turn up the heat a bit to encourage the process. Turn off the heat and cool the vegetables.
- Place fennel seeds into a small dry skillet over medium-low heat. Toast until seeds are fragrant and beginning to turn light brown. Shake the pan frequently to prevent burning. The seeds will toast quickly. Cool.
- Place cooked vegetables, fennel seeds, green onion, apple and arugula into the bowl with the quinoa. Add two tablespoons olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt at first—feta cheese is very salty). Toss the ingredients together to combine. Add feta, then taste for salt. Add more as needed.
- Toast nuts in a dry skillet as you did the seeds in step 4, until they begin to brown. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. Cool slightly, break into pieces and sprinkle on top of salad.