This is my current favorite way to enjoy fennel. Apples and pears play together well with fennel, and the mustard vinaigrette is a perfect counterpoint to the sweet fruit and the licorice overtones of the fennel. Peppery arugula rounds things out as a great way to awaken your palate when marching into what can sometimes feel like the culinary doldrums of winter.
Juice of one lemon
Two small sweet-tart apples
Two firm pears (Bosc pears work well here, but any variety will do)
One medium bulb of fennel, fronds removed and reserved for another use
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Two cups baby arugula
Freshly cracked black pepper
1. Fill a medium to large bowl with several inches of water and mix with the lemon juice. Set aside.
2. Quarter the apples and remove the core and seeds, then slice thinly. Repeat with the pears. Remove the slices to the bowl of lemon water (this protects the fruit from browning when exposed to air).
3. Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise and slice thinly. Some people will prefer to cut the core from the fennel bulb before slicing, and that’s totally fine. Place the fennel slices in the bowl with the fruit.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, cider vinegar, and mustard with a pinch of kosher salt until the mixture is totally emulsified (meaning that the oil and vinegar are no longer separate in the bowl when you aren’t whisking) and then taste. Depending on your mustard, you may need more salt.
5. Divide the arugula among four salad bowls. Remove the fruit and fennel from the lemon water and give it a quick blot dry with a paper towel or kitchen towel to remove excess water and then divide among the bowls of arugula. Lightly drizzle the salads with the mustard vinaigrette and lightly toss, keeping in mind that you will have more vinaigrette than you need. Don’t overdress the salad- the dressing is meant to accent the fruit and vegetables, not overpower them. It is best to err on the side of not enough dressing and just have the extra dressing available at the table for those who may want more.
6. Sprinkle a pinch or two of freshly cracked black peppercorns over each salad. Serve immediately.