Shaved Fennel, Cucumber & Pear Apéritif Salad

November  3, 2022
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Photo by Joni Goldbach
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

As the late summer sun dips toward sunset, it is a delight to mark the passage to evening with good company and a cool drink in hand. During this time of year, I love sipping a bright, herbal, effervescent apéritif to calm the nerves and awaken the appetite before dinner. It’s far too hot for warming autumn spices — let’s keep things light and breezy until the weather cools.

Imagine the feeling of a late summer happy hour translated into a salad. In putting this salad together, my aim was to evoke the flavor of cocktails like a gin and tonic, Lillet spritz, or perhaps something with a nip of absinthe or Chartreuse. It started with an experiment, adding pear to a cucumber salad I routinely throw together with lunch. When sprinkled with rice vinegar, the pear transforms from mild to magical. I added fennel, arugula and mint to bring fresh, herbal notes while the honey and lime keep things bright and gently sweetened. The effect is subtle and refreshing like linen on sunburnt skin. Consider serving this as a gateway to your evening meal.

Note: This recipe was originally published here ( on September 6, 2022 but was lost while editing for clarity. —Joni Goldbach

What You'll Need
  • For the Salad
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 2 Persian cucumbers (or another small, thin variety)
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 2 Bartlett pears (or another green variety)
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, hulled
  • 4 sprigs mint
  • 1-2 cups arugula
  • For the Dressing
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt
  1. Let's begin by shaving the vegetables and pears. Grab a good, sharp knife (or a mandoline if you prefer) to achieve the thinnest slices possible. Have a bowl or Tupperware container on hand to pile your shaved vegetables in as you go. Start the fennel by chopping off the hardest, rooty end of the fennel bulb and separating the stems from the bulb. Slice the bulb vertically, with the grain for pretty fronds that require a knife and fork to eat. Or slice horizontally, against the grain for tender half-moon slices that are reminiscent of shredded cabbage in coleslaw. Slice the thick sections of the stems, as well. Save the fennel fronds for later. Chop off the ends of your cucumbers. If you are using a larger, waxy cucumber, you may prefer to peel off the skin. Slice your cucumbers into thin little circles. For the pear, I prefer thin wedges. Quarter your pear lengthwise. Remove the bits of core from each wedge, then slice each quarter as thin as you dare.
  2. Once you've piled all of the shaved fruit and vegetables in a bowl or another container, grate the lime zest over them with a Microplane. Halve the lime and squeeze all of the juice over. Give it all a gentle toss and set aside to marinade. If it'll be a while until you serve, you can put your salad in the refrigerator to chill.
  3. Grab a small bowl or jar to mix the vinaigrette. Pour in rice vinegar, honey, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Whisk or close and shake your jar to dissolve the honey and meld together. Don't worry too much about emulsifying your dressing, but give it an extra whisk or shake just before pouring on your salad.
  4. When you're ready to assemble your salad, find a large platter to serve family-style or smaller individual salad plates. Pile an even layer of arugula on each plate. Pluck mint leaves from the stem and sprinkle over the greens. Arrange fennel, cucumber and pear on top. Pour a stream of vinaigrette over your salad. Sprinkle toasted sunflower seeds and plucked bits of fennel fronds to finish.

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