Where to begin… where to begin… there are so many great things about this salad, I don’t know where to start.
First, it as fennel in it. Raw fennel. And some of you may recall that I was pretty sure I hated fennel until I made this, when I decided that maybe I only hated raw fennel, because fennel baked in cream was probably one of the best things I’ve ever had. But now I’ve made this salad, and it turns out I don’t hate raw fennel either. So if I don’t hate cooked fennel and I don’t hate raw fennel… hey, I don’t hate fennel! I actually like it. If I can like fennel, that means you can, too! For some reason, this feels like a huge milestone for me.
Second, pickling the red onions is a revelation. Before I put them in the salad, I tried one on it’s own and wound up eating a few forkfuls. They were just that tangy, sweet, sharp, delicious. My mind immediately starting coming up with all kinds of applications for pickled onions… salad dressing, sandwich condiments, alongside grilled meats, etc. Wow. Next time I make this salad, I’ll double the pickled onion part so I have lots more left over. As it is, you may have some extra after putting this salad together. Lucky you.
Third, this salad feels light and spring-y, which is exactly what I wanted right now. Something about those long, scraggly green beans getting all tangled up in the pinkish, lacy onions and glorious white fennel felt kind of joyful and made my heart skip a beat a little. Granted, the beans I found were nowhere near as delicious as the homegrown ones that I pull out of the garden all summer, it’s a little early for really delicious green beans. Actually, the green beans I used were downright sad. But this salad made me forget that for a while.
Fourth, ( I know, we’re getting up there, almost done, I promise) fried almonds are the way to go. Sure you can toast them, but frying them up in a little olive oil is just as easy and makes them just that little bit crispier and tastier. I’m in love.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, upon trying this salad, my husband dubbed it, “bad ass”. If that isn’t a darn good reason to give this salad a try, I don’t really know what is.
Green Bean Salad with Fried Almonds
Slightly adapted from this recipe at Smitten Kitchen
1 pound green beans, cleaned and trimmed
1/2 a fennel bulb (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 medium red onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup whole almonds, very roughly chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Using a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer, or just a good old sharp knife, thinly slice the fennel and red onion. In a small bowl, toss the fennel with the lemon juice and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. Add the onions and set them aside for at least half an hour- but the longer the better.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the beans and boil beans until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Plunge in an ice water bath. Drain and pat dry. (Alternatively, you can lightly steam the beans in the microwave by putting them in a bowl with a tiny bit of water and covering in plastic wrap. The time will depend on your microwave, but maybe around 3 minutes? I’ll have to test this and get back to you!)
Heat a small skillet to medium heat and add one tablespoon olive oil. Add almonds and toss until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and let cool.
To assemble the salad, toss the green beans, fennel, almonds and half of the pickled red onions. Sprinkle two tablespoons of the red onion pickling liquid and two tablespoons of olive oil over the mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper. Taste the salad and add more onions, pickling liquid, olive oil, and seasoning to your taste.