Sometimes the beauty of a dish lies in its simplicity. I like such dishes, where the flavors of few key ingredients come together into something more than the sum of their parts. In this refreshing winter salad, the licorice taste of fennel is muted with vinaigrette, and only a hint of it comes through, accented with vanilla, almond and black pepper notes. —QueenSashy
Prepare the vinaigrette. Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds carefully. In a small bowl, mix the oil, vanilla seeds, vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk until well blended and creamy. Taste and if needed adjust acidity and flavors (vinaigrette is a personal thing). Let the vinaigrette rest for about an hour. (I usually make a little bit more vinaigrette, just in case.)
Cut off fennel stalks close to the bulb. Reserve the stalks. Reserve a couple of fronds for garnish and keep the rest for another use. Remove any discolored outer layers from the bulb, and cut off the root end. Halve the fennel lengthwise (do not remove the core). Slice the fennel and then the stalks very, very thinly crosswise, not quite see through but close, by hand or with a mandolin.
Toss the fennel with the vinaigrette. Let the salad rest for about 15-30 minutes for flavors to develop. If needed, adjust the seasoning, garnish with fronds and serve cold or at room temperature.
Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.