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Fennel & Arugula Salad with Chicken…Deconstructed

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Fennel and Arugula Salad with Chicken

In my last blog post, Tips for a Hot Bod, I mentioned dining out on salads and using your BBQ to avoid turning on your oven in the heat of sizzling summer. This Fennel & Arugula Salad with Chicken is a perfect example. It was a particular favourite of a recent client, too, so I thought I’d share it with you.

If you don’t have a BBQ or are too hot to use it, simply buy a rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken breast from your grocer. Of course, if you are cooking chicken for another recipe, it’s a no-brainer to make extra so you can serve this salad for a subsequent lunch or dinner. Prefer a meatless meal? You can make this with white beans, chickpeas or tofu instead. If you eat seafood, poached salmon or shrimp work well here too.

Fennel is not the most attractive of vegetables so it often gets overlooked. And it’s Latin name, Foeniculum vulgare, isn’t much of an advertisement. The bulbs we buy are a variety called Florence fennel, which sounds far more pleasing. Read on for why this vegetable is more versatile than vulgar.

This salad makes for easy entertaining as you can prepare everything through Step 1 ahead of time. Then all you need to do just prior to serving is toss in pre-washed arugula and top it with slices of cooked chicken and a sprinkle of chopped pistachios. My client took it to a pot-luck book club event and she said it was a hit. It’s also great for picnics or to whip up while on a cottage vacation.

Speaking of which, I’ll be taking the remainder of the month off for my annual “no-blog Aug” vacation. 😉  I wish you a rollicking good rest of summer and see you in September!

Fennel & Arugula Salad with Chicken…Deconstructed

Many folks are familiar with using dried fennel seeds as a spice, so I’m going to focus on the fun to be had with the fennel bulb. As shown in the photograph, the overlapping segments of the fibrous bulb (which grows above ground) progress to hollow stalks topped with feathery fronds that look a lot like dill.  All of these parts are edible. And the taste and texture will differ depending on whether you eat it raw or cooked.

In summer, I most often enjoy it raw. It has a satisfying crunch like celery and a fresh, yet mild, licorice flavour. I shave it finely with a mandoline (first removing the tougher core pieces if it’s a very large bulb) and add it to all varieties of salads, such as the one featured today. For an even prettier presentation, sprinkle some of the vibrant green fronds over top.

Another fave way to enjoy fennel is roasted. Roasting caramelizes the natural sugars in the bulb, softening the texture and bringing its sweetness to the forefront in the same way roasting onions does. Simply cut the bulb into wedges, toss them with olive oil and salt and roast at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes, until tender. I like to squeeze fresh lemon over them before serving to brighten the flavour. In winter, I devoured this Spiced Squash and Fennel Salad from Fresh City Farms.

Fennel is a wonderful addition to stews and soups. And it’s a classic pairing with seafood. Bouillabaisse is one example. Another is this Slow Roasted Salmon with Citrus that I’ve shared with you before. Ina Garten’s Fennel & Garlic Shrimp makes phenomenal use of fennel as well.

Fennel is full of nutritional goodness!

One cup packs in:

  • 3 grams of heart- and gut-healthy fibre,
  • 12% of your daily requirement for vitamin C, which is critical for your immune system as well as collagen synthesis and tissue repair and
  • contains many of the minerals important for healthy bones, including  potassium, magnesium, calcium and manganese.

Fennel also keeps well. Stored in the fridge in a plastic bag or airtight container, your bulbs will stay fresh for seven to ten days.

I hope you are inspired to add fennel to your foodie repertoire and that you enjoy this Fennel & Arugula Salad with Chicken as much as I do!

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