Monday, April 12, 2010

Fennel Apple Slaw

I think there should be some sort of equation to define how much I miss barbecues; in October, they are recent memory, but the excitement of apples, squash and fall vegetables quickly pushes those thoughts out of my mind. Come April, however, despite the abundance of fava beans, asparagus and artichokes, all I seem to be thinking about are barbecues. Not the southern kind, but the kind you have in your backyard where the smell of smoke imbues your hair and your clothes. Better yet, the type of barbecue that imparts deep smoky flavor and delicious char marks to whatever graces its red-hot grill. My desire for a good barbecue has only increased as the sun has been shining and rooftops have provided an increasingly attractive alternative to the library.
fennel and apple slaw
The idea for this slaw came to me after having a similar one at Liverpool House, a great Montreal restaurant. This slaw doesn't make up for the missing hot dogs or charred steaks, but it's bold enough to remind me that those things are not so far off. With each bite I took, I re-imagined it, piled on top of a burger, as a side salad for grilled salmon, and...oh, the possibilities. Then again, I ate it as-is and could not have been happier. Unfortunately, considering how many people absolutely hate fennel, I am certain that this recipe will be of no interest to many. However, for the sake of experimentation I had my friend taste this slaw and raw fennel. She was beyond disgusted by the raw fennel but loved the slaw, telling me that the licoricey flavor of the fennel doesn't stand out once it is mixed with apples and a lovely dressing.
fennel and apple slaw
I still taste the fresh fennel in this recipe, but then again I love the taste of it and so I seek its poignant flavor in every bite. The sweet tartness of the apples is an ideal counterpart to the crunchy fennel, adding notable sweetness and fruitiness. Green onion dressing ties all the contrasting flavors together and adds an extra bite. This is strange, but for some reason I just loved how cold this slaw was, something about it felt like a popsicle salad, refreshing and satisfying. This description is hard to explain without tasting it so I suggest you do. Although I keep yammering about barbecues, don't wait until you fire up your grill to make this; it's simple and refreshing and would be the perfect side salad for just about anything, regardless of whether or not it has char marks.
fennel and apple slaw
Fennel and Apple Slaw
The amount of apples and fennel is ballparked, you basically want equal amounts of both so depending how big/small your apples/fennel are you'll have to adjust accordingly. I used a mandoline to julienne the vegetables, if you don't have one just try your best to cut them into even strips, don't be too nit-picky, perfection is not what we're going for here. Also, this dressing may make a bit more than you, if you have extra it makes a great dip for carrots or use it as salad dressing.
1 large fennel bulb, julienned
1 large granny smith apple, julienned

5 green onions, coarsely choppped
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons yogurt
1 hearty pinch of salt, adjust when tasting
1 teaspoon sriracha (option)

1) In a large bowl toss the fennel and apple together.
2) In a blender or food processor combine the remaining ingredients and pulse until almost smooth.
3) Pour over the fennel and apples and toss well until they are evenly coated. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.