Diana Henry’s salmon, fennel, and apple salad combines loads of crisp texture with fresh salmon and a distinctive dressing. Use salmon prepared any way you like, from smoked to raw, in this lovely flavorful dish.
This salmon, fennel, and apple salad is the kind of dish I could eat at every meal—clean tasting with bright flavors. If you want bread with this, rye is the obvious choice.–Diana Henry
LC Salmon Safety Note
Some people swoon to the suppleness of uncooked salmon, whether sashimi, sushi, or ceviche. Others don’t. So we tweaked this salmon, fennel, and apple salad recipe ever so slightly from the original to accommodate either raw or cooked salmon, depending on which you fancy. Before you decide, in addition to the simple matter of preference, there’s the rather important issue of food safety to consider. In terms of consuming “raw” salmon, even if the salmon is wild—which offers many benefits over farm-raised—there is still the danger of parasitic cooties. You may want to heed the advice of recipe tester Melissa Maedgen, who says, “Raw salmon purchased in the United States needs to be frozen if it will be consumed raw. Salmon (all wild-caught, at least) spend part of their lives in fresh water, which makes them more susceptible to certain parasites than fish that live in salt water for their entire lives. The FDA actually requires that all fish to be served raw in the United States be frozen, with the exception of tuna (most sushi restaurants’ sushi-grade tuna has been frozen as well, even if not required by law). So to make sure you can eat raw salmon safely at home, please verify that the fish has been frozen and is safe to eat raw. Acidic marinades, light salt cures, and cold smoking do not kill these parasites, and most home freezers do not get cold enough to kill them. I eat raw fish often—as sushi, sashimi, gravlax, home-smoked salmon, and ceviche, which is perhaps my favorite thing on earth—but it must be done with awareness and responsibility. Salmon labeled ‘very fresh’ or ‘spanking fresh’ doesn’t do a darn thing where this is concerned.” So eat smartly. And well. That’s all we ask.
Salmon, Fennel, and Apple Salad
- 4 tablespoons superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender until finely ground but not powdery)
- 6 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
- 1 fennel bulb
- Juice of 1 1/2 lemons (about 4 1/2 tablespoons)
- 1/2 small red onion
- 1 large tart green apple such as Granny Smith
- 1 smallish beet (red, golden, Chioggia, or a combination), steamed or roasted
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped dill fronds
- 18 ounces exceptionally fresh raw salmon fillet (see LC Note above; the skinny tail end works quite well for this preparation) or cured or cooked salmon (that is to say, poached, grilled, broiled, roasted, smoked, or cooked in any way)
- 4 tablespoons light and fruity extra-virgin olive oil or more to taste
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper or to taste
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped dill fronds
- Mix the sugar with the vinegar and stir until dissolved. Whisk in the mustard until it’s well combined.
- Quarter the fennel bulb, trimming the top and removing any coarse outer leaves. Core each quarter. Using a very sharp knife or a mandoline, cut the fennel quarters crosswise into very thin slices. Place the fennel in a bowl and toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice. Halve and core the apple and cut it into matchstick-size strips. Slice the onion into very thin rings. Toss the apple and onion into the bowl with the fennel and lemon juice. Add the vinaigrette and toss. (Don’t make the salad too far in advance as it becomes sorta droopy if it sits around more than 30 minutes or so.)
- Slip the skin off the beet and cut it into matchstick-size strips or very thin slices.
- If using raw salmon, thinly slice the salmon fillet at an angle with a very sharp knife as if you were slicing smoked salmon, leaving the skin behind. Arrange the salmon slices on individual plates or a platter, being careful not to overlap the slices. Brush the slices with the oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons lemon juice evenly over the salmon and let rest for 2 to 3 minutes—no longer. If using cooked salmon, arrange it on individual plates.
- Arrange the fennel mixture, sliced beet, and dill alongside the slices of salmon. Serve immediately.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This salmon, fennel, and apple salad recipe is a perfect light meal for a hot day. The kitchen stays cool, and it’s made reasonable quickly. We’re only 2 people at home, so I made 1/3 of the recipe, which was spot-on. I grilled some sourdough bread to go along with it. It also would make a terrific appetizer. Since you eat the salmon raw, you have to get super fresh, sushi-quality fish. I used a very nice Pacific king salmon fresh out of Half Moon Bay. As long as you don’t toss the salad with the dressing, you can do it hours in advance. Putting the dish together is quick then at the last minute—maybe just 10 minutes. This is an elegant dish with great flavors, perfect for a hot summer day or when you’re entertaining. I highly recommend it.
I liked the salmon, fennel, and apple salad and the dressing, even though it was a bit sweet for my palate. I found that the salmon was not “cooked” enough for me with the lemon juice. So I poached it in some white wine—I used Viognier—for about 6 minutes. I drained it and then drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and squeezed some lemon juice over it. Served with the salad, it was absolutely delicious. I used wild Pacific salmon.
This salmon, fennel, and apple salad recipe is a stunning recipe, making for a crisp, tangy salad over slices of raw salmon. The combination is so delicious, I ate it 3 times in 2 days. The dressing is perfectly balanced and falls somewhere between a Japanese flavor and Scandinavian. Just go with it, it works. For the beets, I peeled and sliced them, and then cooked them sous vide, which gave me a wonderful flavor and texture. They would, however, also be really good if you just wrapped them in foil and roasted in the oven or put them in the slow cooker (wrapped in foil, with no liquid). Instead of stirring the beets into the salad before serving, I kept them separate and just layered the slices in with the fish and the salad. Despite what the recipe says about the salad turning soggy, I found the leftover salad to still be delicious the next day. As much as I love this recipe, it needs to have some discussion about the safety of raw salmon. [Editor’s Note: See the LC Salmon Safety Note above.]
I love simple raw seafood preparations like this salmon, fennel, and apple salad recipe. The most time-consuming process here is roasting the beets and thinly slicing everything. Then the salad comes together very easily, looks beautiful, and makes for a lovely light dinner or smaller first course. The proportion of salad to fish and dressing worked really well, although this is a prime example of a recipe that’s very easily customizable. Have a crowd to serve? Then a couple fewer slices salmon on each platter and more salad might be a good idea. Like more olive oil or lemon drizzled on the fish? Go for it.
Originally published September 22, 2014