Quinoa and fennel salad features the anise-flavored vegetable, and is made festive with toasted walnuts and dried cranberries.
Fennel is a fall and winter vegetable that’s often overlooked — given its distinctive appearance and anise flavor, that’s kind of surprising. Fennel is a festive green amalgam of bulb, stalks, and feathery leaves, and while it may not be as versatile as other vegetable, it doesn’t deserve to be neglected, either!
Take this salad, for instance. It’s easy to make, and can be enjoyed with everyday cool-weather meals or served as holiday fare. The quinoa, cranberries, and walnuts team up beautifully with the fennel in a salad packed with flavor and texture. It’s citrusy notes pull everything together.
General uses: Thinly sliced raw fennel bulb is a nice addition to salads and slaws. To enjoy it cooked, add to soups, stews, sautés and stir-fries.
Fennel’s stalks bring to mind celery, and the leaves are reminiscent of dill. But the most useful part is the bulb. The easiest way to use it to cut away the tough stem and stalks, then quarter and thinly slice it. It’s easy to cut, with a texture somewhat like celery.
Fennel has a decidedly anise (licorice) flavor, which is what makes it a love-it-or-don’t kind of vegetable.
Most popular in the cuisines of Italy and France, fennel is a good-for-you ingredient. A cup’s worth of sliced or chopped raw fennel has only 27 calories, but provides an impressive amount of Vitamin C, folate, and potassium as well as small amounts of many other vitamins and minerals. It’s a great source of fiber, too.
The stalks can be quite tough and many recipes call for them to be discarded, which is wasteful. Instead, chop them into chunks and add to soups and stews, allowing them to add their unique flavor to your dish as it cooks.
The feathery leaves can be used, too. Simply use them as you’d use fresh herbs — they’ll remind you of dill, though the flavor is different.
Look for fennel that’s firm and show no signs of softening, with leaves that are green and springy with no sign of flowering. Keep fennel in the refrigerator, preferably wrapped and in the crisper drawer. Use within a few days of buying for freshest flavor and crisp texture.
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup orange juice, preferably fresh
- ½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted if desired
- 1 medium fennel bulb
- 1 medium carrots, peeled and sliced, or ½ cup chopped baby carrots
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 2 scallions sliced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
- 1 to 2 teaspoons orange zest, optional
- 3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice, more or less to taste
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Combine the quinoa with the water and orange juice in a saucepan. Bring to a slow boil, then cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Let the quinoa cool to room temperature.
- Toast the walnuts over medium heat in a small skillet until they are fragrant, about 5 minutes, shaking the pan often. Set aside.
- Cut the stalks away from the fennel bulb. Save them for another use if you’d like, such as making soup stock. Reserve the delicate leaves. Cut away the stem of the fennel bulb and cut it into narrow strips, 1 to 2 inches long.
- Combine the fennel and its leaves with the cooked and cooled quinoa in a serving container. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together.
- Serve at once, or let stand at room temperature for a bit before serving. This is a salad that can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight.
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