endive and celery salad with fennel vinaigrette

I know you all think I must be immune to this, but I go through phases of Down With Cooking all of the time. Sometimes, I’m just extra tired. Sometimes, the food outside the apartment is way more tempting, as it has been since we’ve moved into a new neighborhood full of intriguing sandwiches, hummus joints and more new flavors than I could pack into a year. Other times, I lack inspiration, or worse, an appetite as I did through that needling first trimester. I have cold cereal for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly for lunch. I fib my way through it on this site, plugging in recipes I have backlogged and sticking to simple things like snacks of pickled grapes in hopes that if I do not force it, it will come naturally back to me. I fear cooking becoming a chore, though I know even this worry is a luxury exclusive to people who share blocks with six eateries.

fennel seedstoasting the fennel seedstoasted fennel seedsground fennel seeds

Four days after we moved apartments and kitchens, we took off for four days in the country. I didn’t unpack the kitchen before we left and I didn’t unpack it when we got back. We were at a standstill, this newer smaller kitchen of mine. Nothing fits in it, including the fridge (though it’s in there anyway, ugh, I’ll discuss that mess when I’m able to without grinding my teeth). The dishwasher we’d swooned and were sold over was broken, we needed to buy a cabinet for the living room before we could even unpack our dishes, the sink was borked, the wall had no room for our pot rack and we accidentally forgot to unpack the entire bin of perishables (mayos, jams, boullons, mustards, yeasts, cheese, butter, shudder) finding the box 10 days later (post-heat wave with no air conditioning yet, to boot) suitable for nothing but the trash bin. It was not looking very promising.


My only hope was that one day I’d get hungry, hungry enough that I’d go back to my old self who never cared how little space I had, just that I got to make the food I wanted to in it. My strain of madness has gotten me through a wedding cake and a zillion projects better suited for kitchens with more than two square feet of counter space so I trusted it would not stay dormant forever. [I also trusted that it would not take three weeks to rouse from it slumber, but hey, I can’t be right all of the time.]


Well, it has finally happened, and not a second too soon. Oh, the kitchen’s not unpacked, far from it. But a bare minimum of pots and pans are, the dishes cabinet arrives Tuesday, the sink no longer sprays water to the ceiling, the dishwasher does it’s dishwashing thing, we’ve started buying bits and pieces of groceries again and, oh, this: The girl who thought she could never love a kitchen without a skylight on top has discovered that she’s actually totally smitten with the delicate, angled light that filters in from the kitchen window.


And I know we should get started with something more exciting than salad — yawn, Deb, really! — but sometimes it’s these basic things you miss the most when you let everyone else cook for you. I saw a variation of this a while back in Gourmet and was completely stuck on the pairing, which with it’s fennel seeds and bitter endive and celery probably couldn’t be filled with less popular ingredients if it had tried. But that’s what cooking at home is all about, getting to eat the food you’re excited about, even if it will never win a placement on a coveted menu and I, for one, am quite pleased to be back to it.

toasted fennel seed vinaigrette

One year ago: Martha’s Macaroni and Cheese
Two years ago: Pineapple Upside Down Cake [wow, only two of my favorites from the archives. If you make them, can you share with us?]

Endive and Celery Salad with Toasted Fennel Seed Vinaigrette
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

Despite my drive to make this, the grocery forces were not with me. The (awful) (yes I know I should be more poetic about it but it really is awful) Whole Foods I was auditioning in Union Square didn’t have Belgian endive (which is so gorgeous if you can find it) or frisee, and the paltry bundle of celery I got didn’t slice up to make half the amount the recipe suggested three stalks would. Fortunately, salads are infinitely flexibile and not requiring any kind of religious devotion to their ingredient lists and quantities, so have fun with this. Make it yours.

Serves 8

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (1 large)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound frisée (French curly endive), torn into bite-size pieces (10 cups) [we swapped butter lettuce]
3 Belgian endives, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide slices [we swapped regular green endives]
1 bunch of celery ribs, thinly sliced crosswise (1 to 2 cups, depending on the size of your bundle)

In addition: Either an electric coffee/spice grinder or exceptional skill crushing spices in a mortar and pestle

Grind fennel seeds in grinder until ground but not powdery. Transfer to a small bowl or cup, then stir in oil until combined. Let stand 15 minutes.

Whisk together lemon juice, shallot, salt, and sugar in another small bowl or cup until salt and sugar are dissolved. Stir fennel oil, then add to shallot mixture in a slow stream, whisking until combined.

Toss lettuces and celery in a large bowl with just enough vinaigrette to coat. Season with black pepper to taste.

Pairing: I think this salad would be fantastic with maybe some shards of your favorite hard cheese and a poached egg on top, should those of you out there not be at a point in your lives when runny yolks are verboten. (Sniffle.)

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85 comments on endive and celery salad with fennel vinaigrette

  1. I make both of those archive recipes all the friggum’ time. If I lived on your continent, I’d be over in a flash to feed you three.

  2. I like butter lettuce way better than friseé (so I’m glad you subbed it), which kind of makes me gag and spit like a dog who’s just eaten, well, friseé. This salad looks fabu though.

  3. Whoa… didn’t really realize that the new kitchen was fraught with issues of its own. Glad to hear the sink is fixed, although, honestly, it’s hard to feel sorry for you with the plethora of restaurants near your new home. Just the thought of fresh hummus made by an actual person on the same day that you eat it is…well, I’m jealous. Glad to hear that you got your cooking mojo back… we need your inspiration!

  4. Congratulations finally getting partially unpacked and back in the kitchen. As someone who has moved (1) 8 months pregnant, (2) with a 5-month-old and (3) has endured the pains of cooking while tired and pregnant four times, I feel your pain. The salad looks wonderful. Good luck with the tiny kitchen and falling in love (with more than the lighting).

  5. You know, it’s so true about missing a salad. When I first had my daughter (by C-section, so I wasn’t really cooking for a few weeks) people (my mother) brought us soups and dinners — we had bought a honeybaked ham, I had stocked up and frozen casseroles, and meatloaf and cookies. And ALL I wanted was a big salad.

    I’m glad you’re well on your way to unpacking your kitchen. It’s kind of exciting, isn’t it? A clean slate.

  6. This salad looks really tasty, but I don’t think I would ever manage to get through 8 servings of salad with just my husband and myself before the greens started to look all sad and droopy!

  7. The Whole Foods at Bowery is slightly better and MUCH less crowded. I recommend. Though we’re getting into farmers-market-only season.

    This salad sounds perfect—too much takeout makes me seriously crave bitter greens.

    1. deb

      maggie — You’re so right, and it’s not even that much further away for us. I couldn’t even use a shopping cart there yesterday (or figure out how to) because the down escalator doesn’t allow them (confusingly, the up escalator does) so was lugging this 20-pound basket and then nearly slipped on a spilled drink in the checkout area and was *this close* to a meltdown lugging said groceries home in the rain. Obviously, I’m going to need to reconfigure my grocery approaches in the future. And probably chill out a little.

      beyond — I was actually there at 2 p.m.! I thought that would be better. HA. I’ll learn.

  8. LindaNJ

    I like all the pictures I’ve seen so far of your new place. It sounds like you need a pantry using furniture with doors or reconfiguring a nearby closet for more access to your stuff. you can change which side the fridge opens on, but if too big, you gotta get smaller. everything is negotiable.

    also, I understand the ceo of whole foods is very accessable. you could suggest a store mgr switcharoo or even a new guy. better yet, use this opportunity as if you were an outside consultant brought in to explain lack of repeat traffic. evaluate and analyze why the store does not perform as well as it should. send evaluation email to ceo. are there specific depts that devalue whole operation or is the store itself poorly run?

    anyway, you have the a/c and the dishwasher and lots of places for take out, so enjoy!

  9. a salad is often the most perfect meal. yum. congrats on getting the kitchen going.
    too bad you thought the union sq whole foods was awful. were you there during peak hours? (because then i would agree!) the whole foods on houston is about twice as big and maybe better suited to your needs.

  10. I completely understand the need for a cooking break now and then…I would take one more often but our restaurant options are so limited that only buys me a day or two at best! Glad you found your mojo again and are falling in love with the new space. The lighting is beautiful!

  11. Sooz56

    I have a (newbie) question regarding grinding spices: How do you clean your spice grinder? Do you use a little brush to sweep out the residue from the previous spice grind? A damp paper towel? I’ve been using my morter/pestel (sp?) but I’m not really grinding, just crushing a bit.

    Thx, Deb; love your posts & recipes!

    Congrats on the debut meal in your new digs.

  12. After a meat and potatoes weekend and always from a restaurant because we were traveling I too am looking forward to week of salads and veggies…
    I hope all our kitchen malfunctions are fixed soon!

  13. I sadly do not like endive OR celery OR fennel, however, I feel your pain. I’ve been in my new kitchen with exactly two pans and two pots. I haven’t really moved any pantry items except Pirate’s Booty (you’ll learn about that soon enough), and I ran out of butter last week. We’ve been eating a lot of pasta with olive oil and Parm.

  14. I can’t stand that Whole Foods because it’s always so packed! I like this salad, I think it would be great with salmon. Thanks.

  15. The most unsettling part of your moving saga was the bit about theneglected butter, yeasts, mayo, etc. discovered in one of the boxes!!!! ¡¡Qué horror!! I think I will have nightmares about that haha.

  16. When we moved from law school apartment-ville to our house, I quickly gave in to “oh look, this kitchen here will hold this mountain of boxes perfectly, won’t it!” and walked away for a while. We lived on salami, cheese straws, and Panda Express for a while until I had the wherewithal to tackle that beast. Ugh, moving.

  17. Liz C.

    Moving seriously sucks, and I know I had a kitchen the same size as yours except smaller and w/o a dishwasher. One time, my husband actually made me return a glass tea press b/c we literally didn’t have room for it. But in our new place, I’ve definitely filled up my space with plenty of things I didn’t have before. I’m sure this will come back to bite me in the you know what next time we move.

  18. Susan

    A salad? So, we’re back there again, are we? ‘Bout time! The farmers mkt’s are starting to get more and better produce now, so this is a welcome recipe! Oooo, toasted fennel seed..I remember that fragrance from the black bread. What a combo those two would be..croutons of blackbread (or panzenella anyone?) in this salad. Mmmm!

  19. Amazing. I love your photos, recipe and the storytelling style you have of writing. I was just looking at an old article on NY Times of Mark Bittman cooking in his really small kitchen and thinking, “My kitchen is probaby 4 (or even 8) times that. What’s my excuse for not cooking?”

    Found your blog in just the right time. I need to start cooking more. Thanks for the inspiration.

  20. I was heartbroken for you when you spoke of the forgotten box of perishable foods! I am so sorry you have had a rough time. I was born and raised in NY, but have forgotten how tight for space it is back there. Any time you come to Phoenix you are more than welcome to sprawl out in my kitchen and whip up dishes to your hearts content- all of your dishes are SO, so, amazing!

  21. Endive is wonderful. I have been sauteing mine with a bit of olive oil, topping with truffle oil and pecorino romano. The fennel vinaigrette you made looks divine. I am excited to try it!

  22. What you manage to do in the kitchen, whether small or smaller, unpacked or unstocked, and while pregnant, well, it just astounds me! I’m neither pregnant nor recently moved, my kitchen is nicely sized and pretty well stocked, but currently I can’t move myself to make something beyond a cheese stick and an apple. Which of course I didn’t actually *make*. Sigh.

  23. Melissa L G

    I totally feel your pain about unpacking! We just moved on Friday, and I cannot find motivation to get moving. Perhaps your cool salad will do the trick (as it is 90 degrees here in central CA).

    ps–My cookie sheets do not fit in my new kitchen’s oven :(

  24. lori

    this salad looks so good.
    it might be the final push i need to get me out of my own cooking funk. i haven’t been home lately for meals, due to a series of meetings/birthdays/etc. in addition, the weather here (in Pittsburgh) went from nearly 90 to barely 60 w/ lots of rain in less than 1 week. i know that it’s just the way spring works around here, but it totally messed up my food cravings.
    just today i began skimming through cookbooks for inspiration and came up with a possible to-cook list. of course, there are twice as many desserts as main dishes on the list, but it’s a start.
    almost everything i make from your site turns out amazing. as i’m sure this salad will be when i get the chance to try it out.

  25. Melody C

    Now is definitely the time to get a wheeled cart for groceries rather than carrying them. Sure, gone is the spontaneous stop, but your back will thank you! And I think I will try this salad with shaved fennel bulb and a Dijon vinaigrette. Fresh and crunchy!!! Perfect for this hot weather in Texas.

  26. When I was in the East Village i spent most of my time in Food Emporium in Union Square even though it was ridiculously expensive because they generally had what I wanted, but now I think its Morton Williams on Bleecker for me – I’ve yet to buy a wheeling cart and my arms can’t take the strain!

    And I sympathize with the unpacking, my pots and pans are all in boxes, and my freezer contains nothing but four pints of ben and jerrys (I have my priorities straight).

  27. Julia

    Have you read Mark Bittman on the subject of the small NYC kitchen? You can do it! Soon you’ll be laughing at people who think they need a larger kitchen — it’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes. You’ll be comfortable once everything has it’s place worn in. And I’ve been to that Whole Foods once — walked in, walked out (well, sort of pushed my way out through all the people). Happy unpacking!

  28. nice pairing. Clean flavors. For something really special, you should try out Chinese celery. The ribs are much more narrows, flavorful, and crunchy than regular celery. It is really good. Once you try it, you won’t go back.

  29. Nan

    Love the pot rack and the new china “cabinet” you’re thinking of getting – and I love that you have embraced your new kitchen, even if you have to hide in the corner and cry occasionally – hey, we’ve all done that! If you have a pantry with a door or a closet nearby, hanging a wire-shelf unit on the inside of the door is a great way to store all kinds of things – it basically got me out of my corner! xo, Nan

  30. Laura

    omg. i so didn’t know you can’t have runny yolks when pregnant. i may have to rethink this whole children thing! j/k… kinda…

  31. sara

    I’m not sure if the two feet of counter space is an exaggeration (I highly doubt it), but I’m in the same boat. I moved to a palatial two bedroom bungalow (in comparison to the crack-town hole I was living in before), and love the kitchen– even though my cutting board is bigger than all of the counter space. It isn’t, however, too big to completely cover the kitchen sink when I need extra prep space, though, which I have found to be quite handy. I’m not sure if your refrigerator is “normal sized” or “apartment sized” (shorter for some bizarro reason), but I really like being able to stick stuff on top of the fridge when I’m cooking, too (a bowl of prepped ___ that doesn’t need to go in yet, cookbook, etc.). Good luck! It certainly takes adjusting, and sometimes seems dismal (especially if you’ve been blessed with huge kitchens before).

  32. Katie

    Hi Deb,
    Sorry to hear about your woes. I’ve been lurking for a while now and I wanted to share the birthday cake I made for my husband this week courtesy of you! I took the Vanilla Buttermilk Cake recipe, filled one layer with raspberry filling and the other with Chocolate Ganache converted to White Chocolate Ganache, and topped it all off with cream cheese frosting (frosted in the most utilitarian way to suit his LOST/Dharma Initiative themed party). You can see it at

    Thanks a lot!

  33. sorry you lost your box of perishables, Deb! glad you’re back in the game, though, and toasting fennel to boot! (a favorite culinary technique of my people; the smell makes me so nostalgic)

  34. Sorry to hear you’ve had such a rough go of things, but SO glad you are back to cooking (and sharing recipes with us). This salad looks so light and flavorful. Perfect for a warm Spring day!

  35. Samarahuel

    Oh, don’t be disenchanted, I’m looking at pictures and so far the apartment looks awesome! I have the same two cake stands stacked just that way on our living room bookshelf. :) Did you end up getting the expensive new buffet and hutch for the dishes? Hoorah on it’s being baby-proof, but as another suggestion, we currently have an old dresser (it looks much like the buffet part of that Crate and Barrel one, only all drawers) in the dining room, for table linens, candles, extra dishes, etc. and our wine is set atop it. I have plans for my husband to make wall-mounted wine racks to go above it someday, but for now the solution I accidentally came up with was to set a big, tarnished empty picture frame on the buffet, leaning up against the wall, which I was trying to envision hanging with some of our art from Italy in it. Well, then, in need of more kitchen space one day, I moved all the wine and liquor bottles there, and just lined them up behind the bottom edge of the frame, so it looks like they’re in the frame. I guess it has proven to be a conversation piece, as more than one person has commented and done a double take to see if it’s a picture or real wine. Well, that’s all the help I can offer, but with that salad it looks like you are doing just fine.

  36. Aw, that makes me so sad to hear about all those lost condiments :(
    I’m mourning the loss and crying for your condiments…
    Looking forward to seeing the kitchen all come together, we’re just smitten with your blog.

  37. Kate in Belgium

    I love Belgian Endive too. Since I live in Belgium, I can almost always get it (insert smug icon here) Here it has a friendly nickname : Chicon (pronounced ‘SHEEK-on’). It’s just the thing for spring salads, isn’t it?

    I’m glad you’re getting your kitchen sorted out and your mojo back. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t mind seeing some posts of the foodie stuff around your new apartment. I miss New York.

  38. eva

    Thank you for sharing the dressing recipe, I am abit uninspired about salad dressing these days, will definately try this soon! :)

  39. esther

    Sounds lovely.
    I’ve got Belgian endives and celery in my CSA box, half a butter lettuce and eggs and pecorino in the fridge, I think I even got a shallot somewhere… I think I know what’s for dinner tonight! I just hope my spice-crushing skill will be enough…

  40. I just came back from a few days in the East Village, and you are so right about all the great places to eat there. We ate so well, and cheaply. Hummus, arepas, dumplings, yum! You can be forgiven for taking a little break from cooking with all those temptations just outside your door.

  41. What a great spring salad!
    This looks perfect for when your kitchen is still half-packed up, and the half that’s unpacked is a mess!
    I hope you guys settle in quickly :) I’ve moved so many times, I know the pains of living out of boxes and the inconvenience of unpacking. good luck :)

  42. If you haven’t actually bought a dish cabinet yet and want vintage (and less expensive), you should check out Chatsworth Antiques in Mamaroneck. They sell on ebay and say they have free delivery in Westchester, so I venture you could get them to deliver into the city.

    Like the new food photos in the kitchen…

  43. Dude, that Whole Foods is brutal. I know we’ve all nattered on about TJ’s already but as far as Union Square groceries go, the TJ’s is an oasis of joyful calm compared to the WF. Though produce requires a supplemental stop at the Greenmarket. Guess there’s no perfect solution.

  44. You know, I was just complaining to someone about how much I hate salad, how uninspired most of them are, and then I come upon this and totally want some! I love really crunchy stuff, where not too much of it is mesculen, and for some reason I love monochromatic salads. They look more composed somehow.

  45. Deb – love the checkered kitchen floor! Very retro-ish – I bet it is a challenge to find all cabinets, fridge that match it – Gah!

    it is power season for fennel – and you can definitely taste the aroma stronger than any time of the year –

    Gabi @ mamaliga.

  46. AllisonR

    Hang in there, Deb – New York kitchens are a work in progress. Plus, with you being in the family way (god, I love that expression), no one on the planet would expect your motivation levels to be through the roof. All I can say is that thing over your head is usable space…

    things we also did: installed open shelving for kitchen staples on every conceivable wall space. drilled hooks and ooks into said shelving in order to hang measuring spoons and cups and such. smooshed in a wrought iron bookcase up against the fridge for cookbooks, pots and pans and dishes.

  47. Shondra

    I’m pregnant too and I miss my eggs over easy. I can’t even consider making or ordering scrambled eggs, it’s just not right. I miss sushi, brie and eggs over easy…

  48. I’m with you on the lack of runny yolks – can’t wait to get this baby out and get back to my favorite foods.

    BUT, I have recently had a few fried eggs with delightfully runny middles because my grocery store suddenly began to carry pasteurized eggs! Look for some!

  49. Kristin

    Don’t worry, we all go through cooking (or not-cooking) phases. And I wouldn’t worry too much about kitchen size, either. You’ve already established yourself as Queen of Making Do with Teensy Kitchens! Put out some brightly colored accessories to–well, brighten things up. Also consider wall/vertical space. IKEA has some great implements for wall storage, including mountable magnet strips (knives, metal utensils and small metal jars) and all manner of hooks. Did you ever notice how much kitchen stuff can be hung up somewhere?

    Saw on your Flickr that you won’t be having a microwave in this apartment. I did not have a microwave in college and never missed it. For some reason I don’t really trust them… things dont seem to stay as warm when heated in a microwave and of course its impossible to control the temperature of food as it cooks/warms/melts–which really matters sometimes! The best part of having no microwave is the additional excuse to make tea in an adorable little whistling pot.

  50. i love your kitchen, blog, photos… i discovered you few days ago, i’m italian and my engish is ugly but doesn’t stop me to understand and look your post!

  51. jo

    i love ur blog – it inspires me 2 cook more. as those beautiful pictures of your complicated creations make them somehow feel like they are able 2 be accomplished – which is inspiring! i must say that, with a move inevitable in our near future unfortunately, that i can only suggest that you let your cooking take you to another place: italy, paris, the west or the coast. maybe this will help you :)

  52. Lucy T, the theory is with uncooked eggs that they may contain Listeria – which can potentially cause birth defects. However I personally feel the risk of this is very low, but better to be safe than sorry..

  53. I often look at my hubby at night and say, ‘let’s go out!’ because after a day at the office I am too tired to cook. Other nights I can’t wait to get in the kitchen. Your salad looks lovely!

  54. annie

    The salad looks supreme! Deb, take heart…before you can blink an eye, your babe will be in you arms and everything else that you thought was urgent and important will just fade away and that baby face will be all you know! Kids do that to you!

  55. I think we all have those Down with Cooking days. The only thing worse is the Lost My Kitchen Mojo days when nothing seems to turn out right. But eventually, that pent up excess energy that I release into cooking comes back…and I guess the Mojo does too (or at my husband is nice enough to eat whatever I make). We’re having similar “smaller kitchen than our old one” issues with unpacking too. Stinks. But on a bright note, I’ve gotten rid of a lot of junk I hung on to for years.

  56. What an awful start in the kitchen … when we moved, I also forgot about some things and they went bad in a box :( We must better label next time!

    But, that salad looks good! And I’m normally not a salad person :]

  57. tanja

    This is crazy. 71 posts before me and I don’t think anyone even tried to make the salad! I just finished making it. Had no lettuce, so compensated with more celery ribs. It needs a little something sweet, I think. So thinking of adding an apple. The dressing is delicious. The toasted cumin seeds are essential. Another winner!

    1. deb

      Hooray! I was wondering when someone was going to make this salad. I love these flavors. Clearly, I’m (almost) alone in this. An apple sounds like a lovely addition.

  58. Megan

    I made the salad! I used some romaine and I think it was a curly endive… I had celery to use up I’d gotten when I ordered a box of produce (you never know what produce you will actually get). My husband is allergic to celery and fennel so I made it for a party where others could help me eat it. I got a compliment on it and I thought it was good. I also wouldn’t have picked this recipe normally but I trusted that if it’s posted on smitten kitchen, it’s worth trying, and it was. I bought already ground fennel and did not toast it.

  59. Allie

    Thanks for the recipe! Do you have any more celery recipes you can share? I make soup often, but that only gets me a quarter of the way through a bunch, and I never know what to do with the rest. Thank you!

  60. Stacy

    I know this comment is so belated, but this vinaigrette is TO DIE FOR. It turns a simple butter lettuce salad into a delicious, savory treat. Yum

  61. Melanie

    Just made it last night, because it sounded like just the right crispy crunchy fresh counterpoint to a lasagna bolognese–it was great and I will definitely make again. I added thinly sliced fresh fennel to the salad and shaved Parmesan on top. The toasted fennel was such an interesting flavor, the guests couldn’t identify it but definitely liked it.

  62. Carol

    This paired beautifully with the Mushroom Marsala Pasta Bake. I doubled the salad and quadrupled the pasta to serve 15. Both were very well received. I’m not sure I had as much curly endive as called for, but still turned out beautifully. If I had thought of it earlier, I would have thrown in some romaine hearts that need to be used. I think this will be delightful with roast lamb tomorrow, so romaine, look out!

  63. Marion W

    It’s so many years later, but I’m happy to report this toasted fennel seed dressing has just elevated my frisée and celery (no other salad greens in my fridge) salad to celebrity status! I’m having fun trying produce and recipes that are new to me, to make best use of what’s available in these days of staying home.