Ahhh fennel. I love its crunch, its slightly anise-y taste, its herb-green scent. But it rarely is the star of the dish, always the supporting player. Here it shines all on its own.
Add a few dashes of piquant flavor enhancers – lemon juice, salt, harissa (!), mint – and fennel glides to the forefront like a prima balleria who has been waiting for her chance to sparkle in the spotlight.
While the flavors are decidedly Moroccan, the preparation is based on a simple Italian (or French, depending on whom you ask) dish that uses salt to bring out the natural juice of the vegetable and adds lemon to spread it around. The most common version is with carrots, and a dash of olive oil helps the salt make its rounds and do its magic.
With the added dab (really just a tich) of harissa which is oil based, there is no need for additional oil. The harissa simply makes your lips tingle, so don’t go overboard. The mint melts into the fennel, creating a spring garden in your mouth!
Fresh Fennel Salad, Moroccan Style
2 fennel bulbs, end trimmed and sliced as thinly as possible (use a knife or mandoline)
1 small lemon
1/8 teaspoon harissa (or just a dab from the tine of a fork)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
Juice lemon over fennel and add harissa to lemon juice. Sprinkle salt over fennel, add mint and stir to combine all, tossing fennel with lemon juice. Allow fennel to rest at least 10 minutes before serving to allow the salt and lemon juice to work its magic. Serve.
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