It might be fall weather, but it doesn’t mean we can’t grill. I do live in Canadian after all. (We’re supposed to be good at living in the cold, right?) If nothing else, this Grilled Fennel, Apple, and Queso Fresco Salad is just too good to pass up.
Truth be told, I am NOT good with the cold and any of you reading this who know me can attest to the fact that I often wear my winter jacket indoors in the winter because I can never seem to warm up. Even in the Summer though, I don’t tend to use the barbecue all that often because there isn’t that much outdoor space in my current place (insert sad face here). But a stovetop grill is easy to use year-round, when you’re looking for that charred look and slightly smoky appeal. Carcinogens smarcinogens! Just kidding, friends. Everything in moderation, right? #80twentyAlthough this salad is grilled, the fact that it’s served warm and with the addition of apples and/or pears, it really is perfect for the fall. It also happens to be the perfect balance of salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami, so it gives your tastebuds an full-orchestral performance. The fennel, of course, lends a liquorice-like flavour and paired with the salty and slightly chewy queso fresco, the sweet crispness of a fresh Golden Delicious, the peppery crunch of the arugula, and the tang of the scallion dressing, it’s a flavourfully balanced meal. And though it might look complicated, it’s really easy and quick to make! In fact, the salad was adapted from one in Donna Hay’s cookbook, No Time to Cook (which inspires excellent meals that are really true to it’s title–the whole thing comes together in about 20 minutes.) Enjoy!
- 2 tbsp (approximately) grape seed oil
- 1 large head of fennel, sliced vertically in ¼ - ½-inch slices
- 200g queso fresco (or halumi), sliced in ¼ - 1/- inch slices
- 1 Golden Delicious apple (or other sweet apple of your choice) and/or 1 pear, sliced
- 2 generous handfuls of wild arugula leaves
- ½ cup walnuts
- Scallion Dressing
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp scallion, sliced on the diagonal (green part only)
- Heat the grill pan (or outdoor grill) over medium heat or heat up the broiler in your oven.
- While it's heating up, toss the fennel with 1 tbsp of grape seed oil, or more if necessary. When the pan is hot (or the broiler is heated), add the fennel to the pan (or place it under the broiler on a baking sheet. Cook in the grill pan for approximately 5 minutes per side, or until softened and nice grill marks appear. If using the broiler, make sure the rack isn't in the rung closest to the top and keep an eye on it so that it doesn't burn, checking every minute.
- While the fennel is cooking, toast the walnuts by placing them in a skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes. Shake the pan every now and then to ensure they don't burn. Meanwhile, make the salad dressing by placing all the all of the ingredients in a jar and shaking until well-combined or blending them in a food processor or blender.
- For the queso fresco, heat another cast iron skillet on medium heat (or continue to use the grill pan). While it's heating up, brush some grapeseed oil on it. Place the oiled side down on the grill pan. Brush more oil on the other side of the cheese. Cook for 1-2 minutes on either side, just until browned and warmed through. You want it to retain its shape.
- Layer the fennel, queso fresco, and apple and/or pear on a plate and top with a handful of arugula leaves.
- Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle toasted walnuts on top.
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