Celery and Fennel Salad – Recipe

Compressed Celery and Fennel Salad
Celery and Fennel Salad

So… something completely unexpected and exciting happened: the Herbivoracious cookbook was named a finalist for a James Beard Foundation book award, in the Vegetable Focused and Vegetarian category. I’ll be going to the awards ceremony in New York on May 3rd. Honestly, while winning would be a thrill, I’m mostly just delighted to be included, and excited to spend some time with a bunch of terrific cooks and authors.

This refreshing celery and fennel salad is a riff on one that I had at Bastille in Seattle. I was dining with a group that was eating a “whole beast feast”, and Bastille did a very nice job of making vegetarian courses for me. Their celery salad had tiny pumpernickel croutons and baby artichokes. The one I’ve got for you today has fennel instead of the artichokes, and shaved frozen blue cheese for a garnish (a trick I learned from Grant Crilly, but I don’t know where it originates.)

Totally optional: if you happen to have access to a chamber vacuum, compressing the celery and fennel gives it a great texture and translucent appearance. If not, you can definitely skip it. Or if you have time, cut the vegetables and then freeze them the day before you want to serve, then thaw them an hour ahead of time, pat dry with paper towels, and then refrigerate to firm back up. In the freezer, ice crystals will rupture the cell walls, producing an effect somewhat similar to compression.

If you want to add one more component, a few pickled grapes would be really good I think. You could also replace or supplement the pumpernickel with toasted (or lightly candied) walnuts or pecans.

Celery and Fennel Salad – Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 4 modest servings

Celery and Fennel Salad – Recipe

  • 12 grams pumpernickel (about one 1/4" slice with the crusts removed), cut into 1/4" dice
  • Vegetable oil for frying pumpernickel
  • 140 grams celery (about 4 stalks), strings removed, sliced about 1/8" thick
  • 140 grams fennel (about 1/3 bulb), sliced about 1/8" thick, (parallel to the base)
  • 15 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 tablespoon)
  • Lemon juice, as needed
  • Maldon salt, as needed
  • Celery leaves, as needed
  • Fennel fronds, as needed
  • Small block of blue cheese, any type you like, frozen hard
  1. Heat 1" of oil in a very small pot to about 260 F. Slowly fry the pumpernickel cubes until darkened and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels and reserve.
  2. Option 1: If you have access to a chamber vacuum, combine the sliced celery and fennel in a bag with a couple pinches of Maldon salt and seal at maximum vacuum. When ready to serve, transfer from bag to a bowl.
  3. Option 2: Combine the sliced celery, sliced fennel, olive oil, and a couple of pinches of Maldon salt in a bowl.
  4. Toss with lemon juice to taste and add more salt as needed.
  5. To serve, divide the salad onto 4 chilled plates. Distribute the croutons, and garnish with the celery and fennel leaves. Immediately before serving, remove the blue cheese from the freezer and shave a few paper thin slices over each salad, using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler.

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, March 25th, 2013 in Experiments, Salads.

11 Responses to “Celery and Fennel Salad – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Hi Michael- way to go, you deserve the award, your cookbook is great. I love all the recipes. Mary

  2. Reply
    Nathan Kingsley
    March 25, 2013 at 10:00 am #


    I love my copy of your book. I can’t always find all of the unique ingredients for a recipe but it gives me a lot of great ideas- and that’s what a cookbook is for.

  3. Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Another benefit of freezing blue cheese: If you like blue-cheese dressing (or a sprinkle of it on a standard tossed salad) but don’t like huge, overwhelming LUMPS of it, freezing the block and shaving it with a *serrated* knife (like a coarse serrated knife, or Rada’s “tomato slicer”) will yield a snow-like drift of powder, much more subtle in flavor. I discovered this in Jr. High School – salads were my dinner job.

  4. Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    Wow! Congratulations on the nomination!
    This recipe looks great, can’t wait to try this out. I’m really interested about the frozen blue cheese, sounds pretty weird, but I’m definitely going to give it a try.

  5. Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    Just this past Saturday I made fennel salad, albeit with oranges and cream. Reading your recipe I’ll be sure to try this next with the blue cheese trick as it certainly adds depth.

  6. Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Congratulations! The fact that this recipe makes celery look incredibly appetizing to me is testament to your worthiness 😉

  7. Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    Congrats, Michael!

    Love the frozen cheese reminder. Have done this in the past . What is it with fennel recently? Or is it just me, craving the stuff ? It started at Christmas, roasted … then onto New Years, braised. Now it, yes, lives next to the celery in the fridge. So, what’s it got that my body is craving ? Ah … must be the molybdenum. Hah! Here’s a link to fennel nutrition: big on Vit C, potassium, and some interesting phytonutrients.

    link to whfoods.com

  8. Reply
    March 26, 2013 at 1:19 am #

    Congratulations – it must be wonderful to receive this recognition after working so hard on the book.

    Chamber vacuum now on my wish list.

  9. Reply
    April 8, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    None of our family is big on licorice/anise flavors, but we tried this anyhow, and liked it so much that we have made it a second time. The anise flavor is very mild, and the texture and flavor combination is excellent. For those wondering about “lemon juice as needed”, half a small lemon is a bit too much. Perhaps a quarter of a small lemon would be better. My son says “I think a little more olive oil would be good.” The shaved blue cheese is great, but I’d like to figure out a way to do it without having it tend to curl up into little tubes, which is what I get using a veg. peeler.

    • Reply
      April 11, 2013 at 9:23 am #

      Do try the mandoline if you have one, and be sure the cheese is frozen rock solid – you only have a few minutes after it comes out of the freezer before it starts to soften back up and be hard to shave.

  10. Reply
    April 9, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    Lurking reader via RSS. Just popping up to congratulate you on the nomination! I absolutely love fennel, so will be making this recipe. Already sent it on to a couple of friends too. Thanks!

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