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In-the-way vegetable a delicious salad ingredient

Recipe: Fennel pairs with celery hearts for a crunchy side dish

Fennel and celery slices in a red bowl edged with red leaf lettuce
Dressed and ready to serve, this salad is crunchy and flavorful. (Photos: Kathy
Morrison)

The fennel had to go, there was no question. I had plopped it into a corner of a raised bed last fall when I changed plots at my community garden. But now it was HUGE -- not to mention in the way of the spot where I wanted to put my Sweet Chelsea cherry tomato. And everything I've read says fennel is an anti-companion plant to tomatoes.

So the Giant Fennel of Carmichael was pulled up, and some of it went into a delicious salad. We had it alongside chicken, but it would be absolutely perfect with grilled salmon, if you're so inclined.

Note: As with any salad, the ingredients can be varied to one's taste. The New York Times recipe this is generally based on included radishes, radicchio and slivers of Parmesan, all of which I chose to omit for various reasons. I used about half the dressing, so there would be plenty if you decide to double the salad ingredients.

Fennel bulb on a green cutting board
This is the fennel I used in the salad. It was less than one-third
the entire plant I pulled out.

Fennel-celery salad with lemon and herbs

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

Dressing:

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus 1 teaspoon lemon zest (from 1 or 2 lemons)

1 or 2 garlic cloves, smashed but left mostly intact

Freshly ground pepper

Kosher salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salad:

1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced (save some of the most tender fronds for garnish)

1 celery heart, inner stalks and leaves, thinly sliced (at least 1 cup)

Handful of snow pea pods, optional, halved

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Several basil leaves, thinly sliced

Baby greens, all one kind or a mix, for serving

Garnish:

Reserved tender fronds from the fennel

Parsley and basil leaves on green cutting board
The parsley came from my garden, the basil from a plant I just
bought a few days ago. (It won't miss those leaves.)

Instructions:

Put the lemon juice, zest and garlic clove(s) in a jar or small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, then whisk in the olive oil (a small fork works great for this in a jar). Set dressing aside for at least 10 minutes.

To make the salad, put the sliced fennel, celery and snow peas (if using) in a salad bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Remove the garlic from the dressing, and whisk the dressing again to combine. Pour over the vegetables and toss. Sprinkle the parsley and the basil over the vegetables, stir in, and taste, then adjust the seasonings.

Line the edge of the bowl with the baby greens. Sprinkle the fennel fronds over the salad and serve.




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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Sept. 25

This week's warm break will revive summer crops such as peppers and tomatoes that may still be trying to produce fruit. Pumpkins and winter squash will add weight rapidly.

Be on the lookout for powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that may be enjoying this combination of warm air and moist soil.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Plant for fall now. The warm soil will get cool-season veggies and flowers off to a fast start.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with "eyes" about an inch below the soil surface.

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