Here’s a little moral about fennel.
I’ve had a strong distaste for this crunchy-anise flavored herb for my whole adult life. I have a nebulous memory of eating a fish dish overpowered by fennel and since then, I’ve had an aversion to it — as strong as when I loathed garlic during my first pregnancy. Whenever I see a dish in a restaurant made with fennel, I never order it and when my CSA offers it, I give it away to a friend.
But the other day, Suzy served me a raw fennel salad and in order not to offend her, I tasted it. Shaved thinly and tossed with a bit of lemon, honey and salt, it was crisp, fresh and subtle with nothing overwhelming. And, like sleeping beauty awaking after a long spell, I was set free from my dislike and I actually began to crave it.
When my CSA included fennel this week, I didn’t give it away but got out my mandolin and started slicing to create my own summer salad. I threw in some kale and basil from my garden and sweetened the salad with a peach — everything that I had on hand.
I’ve learned a lot from this funny little fennel story. I now have more empathy with my children when they say they don’t like something. I also see that I need to have more patience as my kids form likes and dislikes. And finally, I must continue to offer my children foods prepared in different ways even if they say they don’t like something.
Maybe my older son who detests zucchini will suddenly find a way to enjoy it; my daughter who plugs her nose at the sight of fish may discover she likes it a certain way; and my seven year old, who can’t even sit at a table with a tossed salad may find he likes the taste of a crisp lettuce salad.
And like me, they will be freed from a food spell.
Kale, Fennel and Peach Salad
2 cups kale, washed and chopped
1 fennel bulb, shaved thinly
1 peach, skinned and diced
2 tablespoons basil, chopped
Juice from 1 lemon
Zest from 1 lemon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Place kale, fennel, basil and diced peaches in a medium sized bowl. Whisk lemon juice, zest, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.