For years I’ve tried to replicate this salad, and I think I’ve finally done it
One of my all-time favorite restaurants is Milner’s American Southern Cuisine and Cocktails in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I remember going there for the first time with my friend Kasey and her mom. I don’t even remember exactly what I had to eat, but I do remember the side that was served with my meal: fennel apple salad.
I didn’t think I’d like this side, especially since I assumed I hated fennel. Fennel is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb with a similar taste to black licorice. I really don’t enjoy licorice, and never really have; hence, I assumed fennel would be on my list of least favorites.
Boy was I wrong.
One bite of this salad and my palate would never be the same. I was hooked!
The sweet and buttery taste of the fennel combined with the crisp tartness of the apples was truly like a match made in heaven. To not pair fennel with apples would be a crime.
I’ve gone back to Milner’s many times since my first fennel encounter, and I have the salad every single time. I only wish it was served as an entrée instead of a small-serving side.
It’s been my mission for a while now to replicate this delightful dish, and now that I’ve finally done it you must try it out.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 bulb of fresh fennel
2 large granny smith apples
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of granulated sugar
1-2 tablespoons of leaves from the fennel stalks
Cut the bulb of fennel in half (lengthwise) and thinly slice half-moons throughout the entire white part of the bulb. If you have a kitchen mandolin, this would be a great time to use it. If you don’t, you’ll want to use a very sharp knife to “shave” the pieces so that they are almost translucent. The thinner the better!
Next, remove the skin from the apples and slice them in half, removing the core. Like the fennel, slice the apple as thin as you can – a sharp knife is a must!
Transfer both the fennel and the apple slices into a serving bowl and toss with freshly-squeezed lemon juice. This will not only add a delicious spark of citrus flavor, but the acid will also prevent the apples from browning.
Next, mix in the oil, salt, and sugar. Take about a tablespoon or two of the feathery leaves off of the green fennel stalks and coarsely chop them with just a quick run-through of your knife. Toss those in with the rest of the salad.
This dish is extremely refreshing and light. It will pair well with any other dish, and it’s perfect for a hot summer day. I love playing with these flavors by serving it with a heavier entrée like white cheddar gnocchi with spicy arugula or a hearty burger hot off the grill.
Okay, okay…I promise, the white cheddar gnocchi with arugula will be posted soon.