Ras el Hanout, or “top of the shop” in Arabic, refers to the best combination of spices a vendor has to offer. Since one vendor's stock might differ from the next, each blend of Ras el Hanout is slightly varied. The blend I used in this recipe (Mustapha’s Moroccan Ras el Hanout) includes coriander, white pepper, black pepper, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, anise, saffron, piment fort, long pepper cardamom, rose petals, nutmeg, mace, fennel and grains of paradise. It has an irresistible fragrance that is hard to describe, kind of a woodsy-cinnamon-ginger nose with a spicy, yet mellow, floral background. I used it to make brittle and thought it would pair nicely with a salad of shaved fennel and apples. The warm spices coax out the sweetness of the fennel and apples, making them taste candied, while mint provides a bright herbal contrast and the almonds give the salad texture. A shower of flaked sea salt rounds everything out and makes it difficult to stop eating. —gingerroot
Test Kitchen Notes
I really loved this salad! It was bright and fresh with interesting flavors. I made this early in the day and enjoyed it immediately, but I thought my leftovers were even better. There was a lot going on here, but all of the flavors really complemented each other. —The Editors
- Serves 4 to 5
plus 1 teaspoon minced shallot
blood orange, halved
apple cider vinegar
fennel bulb, top and end trimmed
large sweet-tart apple, such as a Fuji
extra virgin olive oil
whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
Ras el Hanout
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoons
cayenne, to taste
fresh mint, washed and dried
Good quality flaked sea salt
- In a small bowl combine the shallots, juice from half of the blood orange (reserve remaining half), and the vinegars. Stir in the raisins and allow the mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure raisins are covered. Do not proceed until mixture has sat for 30 minutes. In the meantime, pour yourself a glass of wine, or get started with another part of your meal.
- Halve the fennel bulb and core each half. Using a straight slicer (or a mandoline) set over a large bowl, carefully shave the fennel, until you can no longer safely cut the bulb. Repeat with the other half.
- Halve the apple and core each half. Carefully shave one apple quarter with the straight slicer (or mandoline) into the bowl with the fennel, until you can no longer safely cut the apple. Repeat with the remaining piece.
- Pour the raisin-shallot-vinegar-blood orange mixture over the apple and fennel pieces, lightly tossing with a small pair of tongs to evenly cover. Squeeze the remaining blood orange half over the fennel and apple and toss again. Salt to taste.
- In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Do not let it smoke—you just want the oil to move easily around the skillet. Add chopped almonds and allow nuts to toast for about a minute, stirring to coat. Add ras el hanout and cayenne. Spices should sizzle ever so slightly. Stir mixture with a spoon to combine. Cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds.
- Hold the pan over the the fennel/apple mixture. With a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, scrape oil and spice mixture to one side of hot pan and gently tip over the fennel and apples. Make sure you get all of the oil, almonds and spices out of the skillet.
- Using small tongs or a similar tool, thoroughly toss to evenly coat the salad with almonds and spiced oil. Plate salad on a long platter, making sure to get some almonds and raisins on top (they tend to end up at the bottom of the bowl). Finish the salad by sprinkling mint and a shower of flaked sea salt over the top. Serve and enjoy!