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The Best Ever Fennel and Watercress Salad

Updated on May 23, 2013
Fennel and Watercress Salad
Fennel and Watercress Salad | Source
5 stars from 1 rating of The Best Ever Fennel and Watercress Salad

This may sound like something fruity (as my husband would call it) and inedible, but it really is a great salad. It may even seem like it's going to be really difficult to make, but I promise it's worth it! Many people simply haven't heard of fennel or watercress.

Fennel is a bulbous vegetable with a tall, wispy, fronded top that looks rather like dill. The fronds can be used in salads, but the main attraction of fennel is the bulb itself. It's very firm and crunchy, and it tastes a bit like licorice and anise. It has a fresh, bright taste and it's one of my favorite vegetables for salads and coleslaws. It can also be grilled or braised until tender.

The bulb is made of overlapping layers of vegetable, almost like a cabbage, but very firm and hard. To be used in salads, fennel should be sliced very thin, and it's easiest to do this with a mandoline. (theKitchn)

Watercress on the other hand, is a peppery, delicate, dark green leafy vegetable. This dainty vitamin-packed member of the mustard family, is used in salads, soups and other dishes and has begun to replace the ubiquitous parsley sprig as a garnish on restaurant plates. (CookThink) Watercress has a very spicy natural after-taste that will really give you a good bite if eaten by itself in great amounts. By mixing it with fennel and romaine, some of that spiciness gets toned down just a little.

As this recipe makes 20 servings, I would be very careful to use use only enough of the ingredients that you think your family will eat. I originally bought enough for the whole recipe knowing that I was going to be serving 12 people this last week and didn't use even half of the ingredients I purchased (and we had a lot left over).

I would also be careful with mixing the salad dressing into the salad beforehand. It sounds like a great idea, and boy does it taste good when it's had a chance to marinate for a few minutes, but wet salad leftovers do not keep and you've wasted all of the remaining salad.

Cook Time

Prep time: 20 min
Ready in: 20 min
Yields: Serves approximately 20 people
Fennel
Fennel | Source

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 bunches watercress, (pictured to the right)
  • 1 bulb fennel, (pictured to the right)
  • half a small head romaine lettuce
  • 2 bunches radicchio
  • 1 cup pecan halves
Watercress
Watercress | Source

Instructions

  1. First we will combine the ingredients for your salad dressing to set aside for use later.
  2. In a small bowl, add your 1/2 cup of dried cranberries and both vinegars.
  3. Then add in your tablespoon of minced garlic and 1 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
  4. Finally add in the cup of olive oil and mix well. You'll set this bowl aside for the flavors to blend and the cranberries to swell a little.
  5. In the meantime, you will want to chop your watercress into the appropriate size for picking up with your fork. I chopped the leaves, stems and all into approximately 1 1/2 inch sized pieces. Dump them into a really big bowl.
  6. Either using a mandoline (kitchen cutting tool) or a large knife, chop up the foliage into small bite sized pieces and toss them into the bowl with your watercress.
  7. Next, slice your fennel bulb really thinly. It will kind of look like thinly sliced onions when your done. Add these to your salad bowl.
  8. Finally, pull four or five leaves off of your romaine lettuce head and chop these up into bite-sized pieces to add to your watercress and fennel.
  9. Mix all of these really well in your bowl.
  10. You'll now want to chop up your radishes into whatever size or shape you choose. I personally cut round slices out of them and then chopped those into really thin strips perfect for the salad. You don't want anyone getting too big of a bite of one of those. Add those to your salad bowl.
  11. And then, with the last ingredient, chop up your pecans into smaller pieces and also add those to your salad.
  12. It's your choice whether to toss the salad dressing into the salad before serving it. But I would only do that if you know everyone is going to finish it off in one go. Dressing tossed salad does not keep in the refrigerator well for leftovers. Otherwise, simply serve your salad dressing on the side.

Nutritional Information

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 cup of salad
Calories 178
Calories from Fat135
% Daily Value *
Fat 15 g23%
Carbohydrates 9 g3%
Fiber 2 g8%
Protein 3 g6%
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 202 mg8%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.
The sign of a good meal
The sign of a good meal | Source

For an extra bonus, chop up some red onions and avocado to serve on the side of your salad.

I'm sure you can come up with other fun, delicious options to serve with this salad. As I always do with all of my recipes, I highly recommend taking this recipe and making it your own.

I have found it funny just recently having watched a new TV show we've picked up where one's socioeconomic level supposedly dictated the kinds of salads they ate. The characters in in show said that normal people with smaller incomes ate good old-fashioned iceberg lettuce,, and rich people ate snooty salads like arugula and watercress.

The next scene showed the same woman being served a fennel and watercress salad at her boyfriend's house. This happened right after I had just served it for his family. ha ha That really drew some smiles, because we are by no means rich, but we apparently served a "fancy" salad.

So when you make this for your family, note that you are serving a fancy salad that only rich people eat, and enjoy it!

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    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

      This green salad sounds and looks very nice; unfortunately, both watercress and fennel are quite difficult to get in Mexico, and fennel tends to be ridiculously expensive. Otherwise, I would sure have a go with it!

    • msLarayne profile image

      msLarayne 4 years ago from New York, NY

      That my friend looks good! lol

    • VVanNess profile image
      Author

      Victoria Van Ness 4 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Yummy! I'm so glad you both like this recipe! Sorry Claudia about the hard to find ingredients. Arugula, romaine, butter lettuce, oak leaf, iceberg, baby greens, or any other types of lettuce would work great with this recipe. And for the fennel, endive, green onions, white or yellow onions, carrots, rhubarb, or even parsnips would be a great substitute.

      msLarayne, let me know what you think when you try it out! I would love to hear what you think!

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