fennel grapefruit salad serving

I have been having an absolute love affair with raw fennel lately.  Every night and/or every time I’m at the market my little conversation with myself goes, “what kind of vegetable should we have with dinner?  Broccoli?  Nah.  Cabbage? Not today.  Kale?  Meh.  Ooh, how about a salad with shaved fennel.  Oh, yes that sounds perfect.”  And it keeps happening.  Over and over.  So what if I just ate a whole bulb?  More fennel please.

It could just be one of my recent cravings.  Or perhaps it’s because it’s the closest we’re getting to spring here right now.  Still.  (Not talking about the weather. I’m not talking about the weather.  I’ll just put on another sweater, and not mention the weather.)  But, on the whole, I’d say the jag started with this salad.

sliced fennel for grapefruit saladleftover fennel fronds

Fennel salad with burrata?  Sign me up, and then give me seconds!  Anything that includes buratta tends to be my dream meal.  But, the fennel, with its sleek coat of lemon and olive oil and the icy cool of mint leaves was no second fiddle to the burrata’s main act (or what I thought would be the main act, before I sat down to eat).

And, that, in sum, is why I can’t stop eating fennel.  I mean, a) I get to use my mandoline, which is always an exciting process because you flirt with losing your fingertips but then get parchment thin delicate sheets of fennel, all in a noodle-like tangle, out of the deal.  And then, b) the 15 minute waiting period where the fennel bathes in a lemony dressing ever so slightly softens its crunch and freshens its flavor with the brightness of the lemon – both in juice and zest form – bolstering the anise notes of the vegetable.  I fall for lemon-in-both-juice-and-zest-form’s show every time.

This salad, with grapefruit and curds of soft goat cheese is my most recent use of lemony fennel.  There is nothing new about combining fennel’s sweetness with the juicy bittersweet of grapefruit.  I feel like I have seen it in many a restaurant in past years at this very time of year, the transition time where we start picking up spring while still trailing a few threads of winter along with us.  (Once I even had it as a fennel grapefruit salad with pine nuts and chunks of salted brittle candy.  That was pretty tasty.)  But, look at the word “marinated” there.  Marinated makes it different!  And new!

grapefruit for fennel grapefruit saladmarinating fennel for grapefruit salad

Ok, well actually not very.  But as I already mentioned, the brief marinating period does make it extra delicious.  Plus, the tart grapefruit is, somewhat incongruously, slightly softened by the even tarter lemon.  And, grapefruit goes just as well with mint leaves as fennel does, if not better, so they make a tidy triad.

The goat cheese plopped here and there may seem a bit incongruous, at least as a foil for the grapefruit.  Or maybe it doesn’t.  The creamy, pleasantly chalky crumbles of goat cheese are stunningly different enough in taste – that lovely, goat-y, barnyard-y taste – and in texture, that it somehow pulls everything together.  Plus, it makes the salad a meal.  Or, if you’re hungry for a bit more, makes it a balanced side for simply prepared seafood or roast chicken.

You know what they say, if live gives you lemons, marinate a thinly sliced fennel bulb with them.  They say that, right?

fennel grapefruit saladfennel grapefruit salad eye level

Marinated Fennel and Grapefruit Salad (serves 2-4 depending on hunger level, and whether this is a side or main dish)

  • 1 large fennel bulb with fronds
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 ruby grapefruit
  • 2-3 oz. soft young goat cheese (like chevre)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  1. Remove the stems from the fennel bulb.  Reserve 2 Tbs. of fennel fronds from the stems, and either discard or save the rest for another use (it makes a good bed for baking a fillet of fish on top of).  Halve and cut the core out of the fennel bulb, then slice the fennel extremely thinly with either a mandoline or a very sharp knife.
  2. Toss the fennel with the lemon zest, juice, and olive oil, plus a couple pinches of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper.  Set the fennel aside to marinate at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
  3. While the fennel is marinating, cut the peel and pith off of the grapefruit and cut between the membranes to remove the segments.
  4. When the fennel is done marinating, toss it gently with the grapefruit segments and spread them out on a serving platter or in a shallow serving bowl.  Crumble the goat cheese over the salad, and sprinkle the salad with the mint leaves and the fennel fronds.  If you wish, drizzle the salad with a bit more olive oil and additional salt and pepper before serving, and then go ahead and serve.
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27 Responses to Marinated fennel and grapefruit salad

  1. moraleo says:

    This sounds SO delicious!! I wish it was summer and I was’t out of my mind studying for finals, so I could try making it!

  2. vintagejenta says:

    It’s gorgeous, but I can’t stand the licorice flavor of fennel, especially when raw. Nor can I stand whole mint leaves (or really, mint in anything except tea, chocolaty things, or cake). I’m glad you enjoy it – I wish I could as fennel is such a lovely wintery, herby vegetable. But me and black licorice, we just don’t get along very well. :(

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Ooh, yeah, if you don’t like licorice flavor or mint then this is definitely not the salad for you! :) I used to hate, hate, hate black licorice flavor, but somehow in the last decade I switched and started to love it. I even like actual strong black licorice! You could make a frisee and grapefruit salad with chevre though, and maybe use a little chopped dill or chives as an herb. That would be tasty too!

  3. That’s looks delicious. I’m sure I could bring myself to make it though since my absolute favorite salad ever is the combo of fennel, grapefruit, and avacado. I just don’t know if I could cheat on my avacado with mint and goat cheese… Could I? Should I?

  4. acrusteaten says:

    We do a similar salad with fnnl, grapefruit and prawns. That calls for marinating the fennel too which is a great idea! Lovely pictures.

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Oh, yes. This salad would be fabulous with prawns! It’s also really wonderful with seared scallops, but I’m going to try prawns next.

  5. It’s good to hear that I’m not the only one rushing to the store for another fennel bulb every evening. This looks lovely! And, psssh, goat cheese is never incongruous!
    -Emily K.

  6. I love fennel! and grapefruit! This looks amazing!

  7. Melissa says:

    I’ve never tried the fennel and grapefruit combo, but you make it sound so delicious. I finally know what to do when I get fennel in my CSA!

  8. Allison Day says:

    This looks so refreshing and I love the texture combination. Perfect for the warmer days ahead!

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      For sure. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that those warmer days actually do show up someday up here…

  9. ostriche says:

    It looks beautiful, fresh and tasty! And perfect for a day like this in Rome: spring which looks like summer! Ciao Ostriche

  10. […] Marinated fennel and grapefruit salad (fiveandspice.wordpress.com) […]

  11. This looks AMAZING! I keep fighting the urge to buy myself the mandolin that is on my wedding registry so I don’t steal it from someone else, but with recipes like this you are making it impossible to fight the urge! (every recipe I seem to fall in love with recently involved beautiful thin sliced something)

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Hahaha. I got mine from our wedding, and I never realized how much I needed it before I finally had it. But, I mean, maybe you actually need two mandolins. 😉

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  14. Pat Zapata says:

    This salad is a good idea. Every summer I wage a losing battle against the mint and fennel in the garden. They are both so invasive. This’ll show those pesky marauders.

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