Shaved Fennel, Mushroom, and Pecorino Romano Salad
Though spring has officially arrived and I want nothing more than to dive headfirst into seasonally-correct cooking, I have to contend with what I have for now. At the moment, I still have several wintery fennel bulbs hanging on for dear life in my refrigerator, taunting me with their crisp, licorice-y flesh and aromatic fronds every time I peer into the crisper. Luckily, fennel happens to be one of my favorite winter vegetables. As tempting as it is to throw it into a roasting pan with some other root veggies and a small bird, I just want something incredibly satisfying and fresh without all of that heat coming out of my kitchen.
Pretty? No. Tasty? Oh yeah.
I've always held to the idea that when you have good quality ingredients, you can make a very satisfying dish without doing much. And really, when the weather is this beautiful, the last place I want to be is stuck behind the stove for hours on end. This is probably my favorite salad... at the moment, anyways. (I'm a fickle girl; I'll have a new favorite in a couple of weeks). Maybe it would be more meaningful to say that this is my all-time favorite salad involving raw mushrooms? Ok, that doesn't mean much, either, but whatever. It's a really good salad, and I plan to eat a lot of it over the next couple of weeks while I can still get my hands on good fennel. I absolutely love the play on flavor and texture between the fennel and the Pecorino Romano, and I like to use just enough fennel to be noticed without being overpowering, but it's a versatile dish, so you can use whatever fennel-to-mushroom ratio you like.
Shaved Fennel, Mushroom, and Pecorino Romano Salad (Alice Waters)
1/2 bulb fennel, shaved into thin slices Several small button mushrooms, sliced A chunk of Pecorino Romano cheese (or similar cheese) Salt, for sprinkling Good-quality extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
On serving plate, layer mushrooms and fennel, sprinkling salt and drizzling every couple of layers. Top salad with pieces of shaved cheese (use a vegetable peeler to shave the block of cheese). Serve immediately.