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You can thank Room 11 sous chef Jerry Busher’s fiancée for the raw fennel salad on the menu of the Columbia Heights restaurant. She prefers the raw vegetable over the cooked version, so for New Year’s Eve, Busher composed a simple salad for her with chopped fennel, chives, lemon vinaigrette, and Piave (a hard cow’s milk cheese from northern Italy). “It’s really light, and the chives give it an onion-y, grassy quality,” Busher says. “You almost feel like you’re getting a vitamin shot.”
How to Buy: Fennel is widely available: Kuhn Orchards at the Palisades, Crystal City, and 14th and U streets NW markets have it for $3.99 per pound, and Potomac Vegetable Farm at the Falls Church and Takoma Park markets sells it for $3 per plant. It will be available through the end of summer.
How to Cook: Wash and remove any browned, discolored outer sections of the bulb and cut off the green tops. Halve the bulb and make a v-shaped incision to remove the core. Thinly slice the halves. To dress a salad of two medium bulbs, juice and zest one lemon and whisk in olive oil. (I did a one-to-two ratio.) Add salt and pepper to taste. If you dress in advance, the lemon juice will break down the fennel slightly, giving it a cooked quality. Busher has been dressing Room 11’s salad right before serving, allowing the raw green flavor of the fennel to stand on its own. Garnish the salad with grated or shaved parmesan or Piave and minced chives.
Photo by Phoebe Connelly