Fennel and onion agrodolce salad is a Mediterranean dish that incorporates fennel, onion, golden raisins, dill, garlic, white wine vinegar, and pine nuts. Outstanding in its layers of complex flavors, it’s also pretty quick and pretty healthy.
Sweet-and-sour (agrodolce) salads feature in many Mediterranean cuisines and have spread way beyond Sicily and its more familiar caponata. Most Greek sweet-and-sour dishes are hot stews of vegetables and meat (sofigado), but some are made with seasonal vegetables, such as fennel, and can be served cold as a salad.–Heather Thomas
Fennel and Onion Agrodolce Salad
- 1/4 cup (1 oz) pine nuts
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 (14 oz) onions thinly sliced
- 2 (1 lb) fennel bulbs* trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove crushed
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon agave syrup
- 1/2 cup (3 oz) golden raisins (sultanas)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- Small handful of fresh dill chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a small dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts, tossing gently, until golden brown and fragrant, 1 to 3 minutes. Watch them carefully to ensure they don't burn. Remove from the skillet and let cool.
- In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the fennel and garlic and cook until the fennel is slightly tender, about 5 minutes more.
- Add the vinegar, 1/4 cup water, and the agave syrup, stir to combine. Cover and reduce the heat to low, simmer until the fennel and onion are very tender but still retain their shape, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the golden raisins and fennel seeds and cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the dill. Let cool to room temperature.
☞TESTER TIP: If the salad is sweeter than you prefer, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
- Serve the salad at room temperature, sprinkled with the toasted pine nuts.
*What is fennel?It’s a flowering plant in the carrot family, but yet not a root vegetable. It’s actually a perennial herb. Every part of it is edible from the flowers to the seeds to the bulb; even the pollen is collected and used to give an intense fennel flavor to dishes. Most often, however, it’s the bulb that’s called for in a recipe. When raw, it has a crisp texture similar to celery and a fresh licorice flavor. It caramelizes as it cooks, taking on a sweeter flavor and a tender, lush, melting texture.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
This fennel and onion agrodolce salad is a delicious side dish recipe and also works well as a topping for crunchy toasted sourdough bread or a funky pizza, or even tossed in cold pasta (pasta salad style). I did find it was a lot more on the sweet side of sweet-and-sour. So I added extra lemon juice from one small lemon and then added some diced preserved lemon the next day (from one whole lemon).
It keeps well as leftovers and the flavors developed a bit with sitting overnight in the fridge. Serves 4-6 as a side, depending on pairings. We served it the first night with a seared Denver steak and slow-roasted garlic fingerling potatoes. The next morning, it was a lovely addition to an omelet with bacon and sourdough toast. Finished it off with smoked salmon and some fresh spicy salad greens for lunch.
The fennel and onion agrodolce salad is a winner for fennel lovers and those who enjoy sweetness in their savory dishes. The fennel flavor is distinct but not overpowering as a result of the cooking time. I had this salad warm right after I finished preparing it and chilled the next day with pasta and a sprinkle of feta. Both were delicious. The serving sizes were accurate for a side salad but 2-3 servings for an entrée size.
Originally published July 24, 2021