Fennel Maple Salad



Cards.  There is an inexplicable calm that comes over me when I see, hold and play with a deck of cards.  Any roadside stop that involves trinkets and whatnot…if there is a pile of decks on the shelf at the very least I have to stand for a moment and take a few breaths…I think yens would be the word.


In the 1997 movie ‘Conspiracy Theory’ (Julia Roberts and Mel Gibson) a secret government project ‘created’ assassins.   To keep track of their movements they were behaviorally instilled with an achilles heel: the need to find and purchase a copy of “Catcher in the Rye” if they ever felt stressed, thus all purchases of Catcher in the Rye were monitored by this covert agency.

Similar idea…somehow early on I associated cards (and jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles) with good times, security and home.  Or something like that.   It’s nearly a compulsion, holding and shuffling the cards, and I find it restful.  Numbers, Categories, Characters, Shapes, Graphics—so many of my favorite things are all right there on cards, keeping me company but not asking questions or wondering if I can rent them a dance floor.

And if someone is tracking my purchases of cards…well…I hope they’re having fun.



The top photo is a deck of Yellow Submarine cards that my sister gave me (she obviously understood my borderline obsession).  She also gave me the deck of Invisible Cards.  My latest acquisition is the Birkie deck, it was my Catcher in the RyeAchilles Heel moment as I wandered the halls while Scott was registering for the ski race in Hayward last winter.




These are cards from Mexico with a very Tarot look.  Spanish, Mexican and Italian decks have only 40 cards, and the games are different.  I don’t know the games, but I think the cards look cool!


What does this have to do with Fennel Salad?
During this busy season of catering my brain needs an escape.  If I have time I watch a movie, otherwise activities like playing solitaire force my brain to think of something other than, “…okay…120 people each need 3/4 cup of rice which is 90 cups cooked which is 30 cups uncooked which is around 15 pounds…” it can go on forever, constantly mulling over details.  Solitaire (and crossword puzzles) force me to look at what is right in front of me and notice it and ponder only the next few moves.


I ask again…what does this have to do with Fennel Salad?

I am making this salad for an upcoming event and I needed to practice it, but first I had to stop and play solitaire to rest my brain and it occurred to me I could share this little quirk with you.

And now, on to the salad.




Even frondless, fennel is beautiful!





The original recipe calls for figs, but since it is fall and I often use local fare I substituted figs with roasted apples (even though I adore figs and will write more about them another time).  Diced very small, the apples are roasted for about 40 minutes to give a mildly dehydrated texture.  Or you could probably use dehydrated apples.




There are many rice vinegars—this is the one that was recommended for this recipe.  Sugar and salt have been added.



My friend Patsy made this salad for me last fall, and I of course began using modified versions of it for catering.  The original recipe is from the book Radically Simple by Rozanne Gold.   I know I say this often, but it really is an incredible combination of flavors!!  It is a ‘must’ for this fall as fresh fennel comes into season.



Fall Fennel Salad

Roasting Time: 30-45 minutes     Prep Time: 20 minutes


Whisk or food-process these ingredients for dressing:

1/4 cup Olive Oil

2-3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

3 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard

1 Garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup coarse chopped pistachios

salt and pepper


If you are using the roasted apples, dice:

3 apples

Spread out on a dry cookie sheet and roast at 350 for 30-45 minutes.


If  you are using figs, trim and quarter:

9 fresh or hydrated dry figs (my favorite dry figs are Calmyrnas, but Black Figs are tasty too)


Remove fronds from:

1 large bulb fennel

Chop 1/4 -1/2 cup of the fronds to garnish the top of the salad.

Halve the fennel bulb lengthwise and slice thinly widthwise, flat side down.

If you want the fennel to match the apples, stack the slices and chop again so they are a similar size to the apples.



Toss together and arrange in a bowl:

3 cups Arugula

3 small heads Endive or 3 – 4 cups Napa Cabbage, cut in thin strips

The Dressing

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Top with:

The roasted Apples (or the Figs)

1/2 c. Black Walnuts or Walnuts (or Pistachios)

1 cup Celery, diced small

Fennel Fronds, chopped




This not-very-well-thought-out photo makes it look like I don’t know how to categorize!



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