- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2007

If there is such a thing as a thirst-quenching vegetable, I think fennel could win the title. Or perhaps it’s a tie between fennel and cucumbers, but I’ll cover the latter in a later column.

This gratifying quality of fennel is enhanced when it is shaved paper thin — with a very, very sharp knife or on a mandoline — and then combined with a generously juicy fruit (grapes in this case) and marinated in a flavorful oil (a fruttato extra-virgin olive oil or heavenly roasted almond oil, available at enlightened grocery stores) and a splash of fresh lemon juice.

Chill until very cold and serve with a scattering of almonds and cheese, and you’ll have a perfect summer lunch or a palate-cleansing course before or after dinner.

Shaved fennel with grapes, almonds and cheese

2 medium fennel bulbs, very thinly sliced (about 2 cups) (see note)



1½ cups red seedless grapes, cut in half

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and/or roasted almond oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or to taste)

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup blanched, slivered almonds, lightly toasted (see note)

A small piece of hard cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino, Asiago), shaved into thin slices with a vegetable peeler

In a medium-sized bowl, toss together the fennel and grapes.

Drizzle in the olive oil (or roasted almond oil) and lemon juice, and toss until the fennel and grapes are lightly but thoroughly coated. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and toss again. Taste to adjust lemon juice, then cover and refrigerate until serving (but not longer than about 1 hour).

Just before serving, sprinkle in the almonds and cheese shavings. Toss quickly but thoroughly, and serve right away. Pass the pepper mill for those who want a spicy salad.

Makes 2 to 4 servings, depending on whether it is a main or a side dish.

Note: Use a very sharp knife or a mandoline to render the fennel bulb into paper-thin slices.

Note: The fennel and grapes need time to marinate in the olive oil and lemon juice, but the almonds and cheese are at their best when tossed in at the last minute.

Mollie Katzen is author of “Moosewood Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press). To contact her, go to www.molliekatzen.com.

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