Cheese1227's (brilliantly named) date night salad reminded me of this, one of my favorite salads that I haven't made in a while because I've been too busy trying new combinations. But, the combination of celery with Asian pear and fennel gives you this amazing wave of juicy crunchy texture along with the interplay of sweet, salty, and anise-y. The simple lemon dressing tastes similarly fresh and fruity, and the shavings of Grana Padano and toasty hazelnuts are very important for crunchy nuttiness.
I get mandolin happy with this salad and slice everything into thin, gangly slices that get all jumbled and tangled together. I really like this effect. If you don't, you can cut everything into small wieldy pieces instead.
And, I'm not going to require you to make brittle to do this but - and I know this sounds kind of crazy, but it's seriously delicious - if you have some sea-salty caramel brittle around, crunch up a handful of small shards and scatter them over the salad. Seriously. Dessert and salad can get along just fine. —fiveandspice
Test Kitchen Notes
This salad truly is a trifecta – juicy crisp pear, mildly sweet fennel, and crunchy celery are all nicely accented with a lemon tang, nutty parmesan and toasty hazelnuts. This is quite possibly the perfect warm afternoon salad. It is easy to make, you get to use your mandolin (carefully!) and it has the extra bonus of being good for you. —aargersi
fennel bulb, washed and trimmed, a handful of fronds reserved
Thinly slice your fennel bulb and Asian pear halves on a mandolin. Cut the celery stalks on the bias into 1/4 inch slices. Put them all in a bowl. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. (If you want to add in some shards of sea salt brittle, do it at this point so it gets tossed in.) Toss everything together until it's all a tangled mess and well-coated with the dressing.
Taste and add more salt and pepper to taste. Scatter the toasted hazelnuts and a small handful of reserved fennel fronds over the salad. Ase a vegetable peeler to make elegant curls of cheese, and sprinkle these all over the salad as well.
Serve! (It's rather tasty eaten directly out of the bowl, as I am wont to do with this one.)
I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (www.vikredistillery.com), where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.