Another Spring day, another salad. This roast fennel nicoise, with tomato and green bean salad has my favourite ever vegetable in it, the fennel. If you’ve never eaten one you really are missing treat. It has a wonderful but subtle aniseed taste yet the texture is crunchy. It can be eaten raw if sliced thinly and is lovely like that on a salad or in a salsa but it’s also divine when slow roasted either in a stew or like this.
when is a Nicoise not a Nicoise…?
I call this my non-nicoise salad nicoise with the wonderful, almost ‘meaty’ slabs of roasted fennel taking the place of the tuna. It has all the lovely ingredients of a classic salad nicoise; the green beans, the potatoes and the tomatoes, just none of the fish so it’s perfect for a vegetarian or vegan. Again, like with the roast beetroot salad I made earlier in the week I’m using part of what’s being roasted as part of the dressing so make sure you use a good quality extra virgin olive oil – like the amazing stuff available from La Espanonla. I’m also using a really good quality balsamic vinegar as the dressing for this salad is quite simple and doesn’t really need more than a basic drizzle of oil and vinegar.
When it comes to balsamic I always have 2 types in the kitchen. I go for an inexpensive one, usually suermarket branded from a ‘basic’ range. I’ll use this one for when I’m making a dressing that calls for cooking the balsamic or if I’m adding it to a sauce. Then I will have a fancy balsamic, something actually from the Balsamic region itself. Still doesn’t need to be expensive but it should taste nice and not bitter.
- 1 fennel bulb – thickly sliced from root to tip
- 2 or 3 vines of cherry tomatoes -on the vine
- fresh herbs
- lemon – cut into wedges
- olive oil
- baslamaic vinegar
- new potatoes
- gem lettuce – cut into wedges (I use one gem lettuce cut into quarters which is enough for 2 people)
- fresh basil
Pre-heat the oven to 160C – you will need an oven-proof roasting tin or dish
Lay the fennel, tomatoes and lemon into the roasting tin and sprinkle over some herbs – I’m using rosemary and thyme from the garden but dried oregano would be lovely. Drizzle over some olive oil and roast for about 45 mins until the fennel is tender. Then set aside to cool. The whole thing can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days.
Boil the potatoes until soft. I ike to add the green beans 2/3rds of the way through the boiling of the potatoes so you save on pans. Drain well and whist they’re still warm season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Let the potatoes and beans cool slightly before you build the salad.
To build the salad I start with two wedges of gem lettuce on the plate, then add the fennel followed by the rest of the veg with the tomatoes going on last. I drizzle the whole thing with a good quality olive oil and some dashes of balsamic and it’s good to go!
Eat and of course, enjoy!