One of my favorite take-away lunch spots when I worked in downtown San Francisco offered a shaved fennel, apple and smoked whitefish salad. The salad works equally well with chicken or duck.
There were actually two take-away, gourmet, well-priced lunch spots near where I worked. One is called The Sentinel and it still exists and is on the south side of Market Street. However, the business model and the offerings of the two places are/were very similar.
While I was working, I didn’t eat out a lot. However, when a colleague would tell me that this salad was on the menu at The Sentinel, even if I had brought my own lunch, I’d save it for the next day and get the salad, instead.
Raw fennel and cooked fennel have very different flavors. And raw fennel itself can have a different flavor depending on how thinly or thickly it is sliced. Because this salad uses raw, thinly sliced fennel, it becomes a background note, not a bonk-you-on-the-head-this-tastes-like-licorice flavor you sometimes get with thick-sliced raw fennel. Don’t be afraid, it works well.
If you like smoked whitefish (e.g., trout) I encourage you to use it as it’s the way the take-away restaurant makes it. The smokiness is fantastic with the other flavors. But if you don’t like fish, give it a try with poached or roasted chicken or duck and add a little smoked paprika so you don’t miss out on the smoky flavor.
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The Sentinel Salad
- 1 very large (or two medium) fennel bulb(s), cored and sliced very thinly (Use a mandolin if you have one)
- 1 very large or 2 medium carrots, peeled, then grated
- 2 celery stalks, diced into 1/4-inch (.5 cm) pieces
- 1/2 of a small red onion, cut into 1/8-inch (.25 cm) slices
- 1 smoked white fish (e.g. trout or sword fish) deboned, about 4-6 ounces, or roasted or poached chicken or duck cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1 Granny Smith apple cored and diced into bite-sized pieces
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Vinaigrette, as much as preferred. See recipe, below, or use your favorite
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika (optional, and only if you are making this with chicken or duck and not smoked whitefish)
- Butter lettuce for garnish (optional) ************
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces, or 118 ml) extra virgin olive oil (for other recipes, try hazelnut oil, walnut oil, avocado oil, or pumpkin seed oil)
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces, or 59 ml) white wine vinegar (for other recipes, also try red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, red or white wine, or lemon juice)
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt (not iodized table salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 heaping teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
- Make the vinaigrette: Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Yes, it’s that easy! Why buy salad dressing ever again?!
- Prepare all vegetables and protein – the smoked fish, chicken or duck – as described in the ingredient list and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the apple at the last minute so it doesn’t brown
- Add enough vinaigrette to just moisten the salad ingredients. Mix well. Taste and add more vinaigrette and/or salt and pepper if needed
- Serve “as is” or on top of butter or iceberg lettuce leaves