This is a delicate salad with the wonderful taste of fresh fennel and roasted tomatoes. Fennel is one of those ingredients that folks shy away from because they either do not know what to do with it or have had a bad experience with. I personally have discovered it over the last 4-5 years and love it in every form, especially raw in salads. The aromatic licorice flavor, think black vines or anise seeds, is subtle and beautiful, a flavor I enjoy a lot. This salad highlights that flavor, and combined with the heavily spiced caramelized tomatoes and creamy yogurt, it is the perfect salad. I could eat a whole bowl of this and nothing else for lunch.
I have not cooked enough from this book, but every time I cook from it I love the flavors and dishes. A book filled with wonderful recipes from Lebanon is a treat to have and cook from. Easy to follow recipes make me want to pick up this cookbook and make super delicious dinners every night. I highly recommend this cookbook for authentic flavors from the region.
For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.
For the fennel salad:
1 large, or 2 small fennel bulbs, tough outer leaves removed, the pith removed and thinly sliced with a mandolin, or by hand
A few fennel fronds for garnish
2 tablespoons labneh or Greek yogurt
Jiuce of 1 lime or 1/2 lemon
1 generous tablespoon mint, minced + some for garnish
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and white pepper to taste
2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
A drizzle of EVOO
For the zata’ar roasted tomatoes:
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons zata’ar spice mix, commercial is fine
To make the salad, mix all the ingredients, except the toasted pine nuts, in a bowl till the yogurt and herbs coat the fennel slices evenly. Taste and adjust salt, tartness and mint as per your palate.
To make the roasted tomatoes, mix the tomato halves with the spices and oil and toss well to get them evenly coated. Place the tomatoes in a single layer cut side up, as much as possible, and bake at 350°F for about 20-25 minutes. They are done when the tomatoes are soft and gooey, they should show signs of caramelized ion on the edges. You do not want to over cook them till they disintegrate completely.
To assemble the salad, add the fennel salad to the center of a bowl and add the roasted tomatoes as a ring on the side of the bowl. Top with the toasted pine nuts and minced mint. Serve and once the guests have got over the wow factor, mix in the tomatoes.