Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables ever, of all time. I don't think I had ever used it before it arrived a couple of years ago in my weekly fruit and veggie box from Abel and Cole, which just confirms what a great idea it is to give up the power of choice every now and again, and figure out what you can do with whatever the universe (or the veggie company, in this case) sends your way.
Since then, I've experimented with fennel heavily, baking it with parmesan, braising it with pork belly, and simmering it down with white wine, sausage, basil, and a touch of cream for an irresistable pasta sauce. I guess it's the aromatic lightness it brings to heavier ingredients that makes it such a go-to vegetable for me. Add fennel to an otherwise ordinary meal, and suddenly it seems special and complex.
So yesterday my little household decided to have a barbecue to celebrate one of the first glimpses of good weather this year, and I thought immediately of a fennel salad to balance out the juicy burgers and oily whole mackerel we cooked over the coals. This recipe was inspired by the 'Fennel and feta with pomegranate seeds and sumac' found in Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, but in mine I replaced some of the fennel with thinly sliced pears, and omitted the sumac.
Fennel, Pear and Pomegranate Salad
1 bulb of fennel
2 conference pears
100 grams crumbled feta cheese
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and ground black pepper
one bunch of flat leaf parsley
Cut off the top and base of the fennel and slice it as thinly as possible lengthways. If it has a leafy top chop this and sprinkle it over the finished salad. Peel and thinly slice the pears lenthways as well, and remove the pomegranate seeds by cutting the fruit in half and whacking the back of each half with a wooden spoon, letting the seeds fall out into a bowl. Roughly chop the parsley.
Combine the fennel, pear, pomegranate seeds, feta, and parsley with the lemon juice and olive oil in a pretty bowl, and season generouly with salt and pepper.