Shaved fennel, lightly marinated, with homemade ranch dressing is a new take on the traditional fennel salad or slaw. Thinly sliced fennel pickled briefly with just salt and sugar is gorgeous, but the buttermilk ranch dressing with chives and dill is the star of the salad.
My usual fennel salad, the one I have been making in the same way for years features sliced fennel, segmented orange and a generous handful of raisins. Nothing wrong with it at all, it’s perfectly nice, healthy and easy.
But if we didn’t sometimes get bored with the way we prepare food, there would be no new dishes. Change the routine; modify the ingredients. Curiosity might have killed the cat but it sure contributed to many a cookbook.
I always slice the fennel horizontally, cutting out the tough core – not this time. I’ve sliced it, just to be contrary, lengthwise this time. I normally do not touch the sliced fennel with salt or lemon until the last moment, lest it wilts: now I’m seasoning it in advance on purpose, to marinate it lightly, let it absorb salt and sugar and then get drained. No nutrients are lost and if anything, the vitamin C content might be boosted. I’d dress it lightly previously, just a sprinkling of salt, pepper and olive oil and I’m not quite so restrained this time preparing the classic ranch dressing to soak the fennel in.
I had to seek advice on ranch dressing from NY Times cooking. I’d thought it was a complex confection akin to Caesar dressing or blue cheese sauce while it turns out to be really tangy mayo with a hint of onion. Very good too: the very first time I made it a whole jar vanished at a supper for four.
The original ranch dressing uses dried seasoning in order to prolong its shelf life and thicken the consistency. But what makes this dressing especially delicious is fresh herbs, chives and dill, sprinkled over and folded in. So a caveat: if you’re making a bucketful of the dressing intending to store it in the fridge, skip that point and add the fresh herbs as you use your ranch.