One of my favorite meals during the summer months is a veggie-packed salad. Grabbing a bunch of fresh items from the market and topping them with a simple salad dressing can sometimes be exactly what my body needs.
It’s kind of hard to replicate that situation in the winter. I mean, sure, you can go to the grocery store and pick up some okay stuff that’s been shipped across the world, but it wouldn’t taste as good.
Not to mention that when it’s cold out, I’m not in the mood for a huge plate of crunchy cold veggies. Just doesn’t work.
And that’s where this salad comes in. It has only a few ingredients all of which are very available in colder months. By cooking the salad slightly, it’s makes for a really delicious, and warm, meal.
I topped mine with some marinated chicken, but you could definitely make this salad just as a side dish.
1) For the chicken marinade, just whisk all the ingredients together and let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes. Then cook the chicken however you like. I prefer either grilling or in a cast iron skillet.
2) For the salad, make sure to slice the fennel really thin so you don't get a big bite of it.
3) To warm the salad, add oil to a skillet and heat over medium heat.
4) Add thyme leaves to oil and cook for a few seconds.
5) Toss in cauliflower and cook until hot and par-cooked, but not soft, about 3-4 minutes.
6) Add beans and fennel and toss to combine. Let cook for 30 seconds just to warm ingredients. Then season with salt and pepper.
7) Add lemon juice, zest, and parsley and toss again.
8) Serve with chicken or it's also great as a side with a dash of hot sauce.
The veggies for this salad are really simple. They also happen to be mostly white which is coincidence really.
The only tricky veggie to prepare for this salad is the fennel. If you’ve never used fennel before, it has a pretty strong anise flavor. I love it, but because the flavor is so strong it’s best to slice it really thin when you prepare it.
When you’re preparing it, slice off the green stalks, then slice the bulb in half vertically. There will be a core in the bulb that isn’t as tasty as the outer layers of the bulb. You should be able to just kind of rip it out.
Then slice the fennel as thinly as possible. You can use a sharp knife for this but if you have a mandoline, it’ll make really short work of it.
Marinating the chicken
I decided to serve this salad with some marinated chicken. The marinade I used is really simple. It has a lot of citrus flavor to it and the garam masala gives it a nice subtle spice.
Just whisk all the marinade ingredients together and then marinate your chicken for about 30 minutes. You can do longer if you want, but 30 minutes should do the trick.
Cooking the chicken
I think ideally, you would grill the chicken. But on this given night it was particularly cold here so I didn’t feel like lighting up the grill.
I just cooked mine in my cast iron skillet, cooking it over medium-high heat for about 7 or 8 minutes per side. If you have really thick breasts, you might need to finish them in a 350 degree oven to make sure they are cooked all the way through.
Again though, the chicken is optional. The salad works great as a side dish also.
Warming the salad
To make the salad, start by getting your oil hot over medium heat. Then add your thyme leaves to the oil.
Let them cook for a few seconds, just until they become fragrant.
Then toss in the cauliflower. Stir the cauliflower to make sure it’s coated in oil. Cook the cauliflower until it’s warmed but not completely soft.
I cooked mine for 3-4 minutes.
Then add the fennel and beans and toss everything to combine it well. Season it with salt and pepper.
Right before you’re ready to serve the salad, add the lemon juice, zest, and parsley to the warmed salad.
The citrus flavors in the salad go great with the chicken, but I also ate the leftovers by themselves with a few dashes of hot sauce!
If you’re new to fennel, this is a great dish to try it out. All the other ingredients are pretty easy to prepare and it takes just a few minutes to pull everything together.
This completely worked for a salad fix for me. It’s packed with veggies, but still warm and hearty which is what I want in a winter dish.