Recipes

shaved fennel and crushed olive salad

Last week I childishly pouted that nobody really loves fennel salads and so many of you commented that you wanted one, I am delighted I’ve been given the external validation I require to share a new one here. This fennel salad is from Café Altro Paradiso, which shares a chef — Ignacio Mattos — with two other New York restaurants, estela and Flora Bar. What I love about the cooking at these restaurants is that there’s a quiet minimalism to each dish that belies the actual complexity of flavors. It’s particularly evident in salads. At estela, my favorite is this endive salad, which seems like the most plain pile of lettuce until you find the heap of loudly flavored texture and crunch below, for scooping onto the leaves. This fennel salad looks equally unassuming when it comes out: a mountain of shaved bulb. But it sits on a piquant medley of crushed olives, thinly sliced stems, minced fronds, sharp cheese, citrus zest, juice, wine vinegar, olive oil, and seasoning that I’m not sure I ever want to stop eating.


what you'll need

Fennel is divisive. Olives are divisive. I know this salad isn’t for everyone — I mean, what is, truly, except puppies, kittens, and thriving postal service — and if you’re about to tell me that you’d like this except for the fennel and/or the olives, shh, you don’t need to because I already know. I’ll have something you like more next week. Everyone gets a turn. I’ve gone full Mom Voice, haven’t I?

cerignola olivescrush and pit olives, roughly chopthinly sliced stalkscrushed olive medleyaged provolooneshaved fennel

But if you’re even ever-so-slightly on the fence, you should know that this one has converted many people. I tend to make it whenever suits us and keep it in two containers — the dressed, shaved fennel bulb in one and the olive mixture in the other — because the complexity is more noticeable when it hasn’t been mixed as long. Salads like this — that keep well in the fridge because they don’t enlist quick-wilting lettuces — are a key part of our summer cooking. These bean salads, broccoli salads, carrot salads and more are the kind of thing you can pull out at the end of the day and serve solo or with something else: focaccia, a simple aglio e olio spaghetti, a grilled steak or chicken thighs, if that’s what you crave. I hope this makes its way into your low-fuss summer rotation, too.

shaved fennel and crushed olive salad

Fennel, here and elsewhere: There are two more fennel salads here, one with blood oranges and one with proscuitto and pomegranate, so they both feel very wintery. There’s also this green salad with a fennel seed vinaigrette. Oh, and also a fennel seed ice cream that I love, even if few others do. Finally, in Smitten Kitchen Every Day, there’s a Fennel, Pear, Celery, and Hazelnut Salad, which I jokingly call the Haters’ Salad because there are so many maligned ingredients in it.

Previously

Six months ago: Pina Colada
One year ago: Salted Caramel Pretzel Blondies
Two year ago: Foccacia Sandwiches for a Crowd
Three years ago: Blackberry-Blueberry Crumb Pie
Four years ago: Summer Squash Pizza, Peach Melba Popsicles, and Chile-Lime Melon Salad
Five years ago: Raspberry Crushed Ice
Six years ago: Cold Noodles with Miso, Lime, and Ginger and Apricot Pistachio Squares
Seven years ago: Charred Corn Crepes, Burst Tomato Galette with Corn and Zucchini and Strawberry, Lime, and Black Pepper Popsicles
Eight years ago: Pink Lemonade Bars and Charred Pepper Steak Sauce
Nine years ago: Sugar Plum Crepes with Ricotta and Honey
Ten years ago: Everyday Chocolate Cake and Zucchini and Almond Pasta Salad
Eleven years ago: Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons and Sour Cherry Slab Pie
Twelve years ago: Cantaloupe Salsa and Plum Kuchen and Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad
Thirteen years ago: Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad
Fourteen years ago: Huevos Racheros, Blueberry Crumb Bars, Napa Cabbage Salad with Buttermilk Dressing, and Quick Zucchini Sauté

Shaved Fennel and Crushed Olive Salad

  • 1 cup castelvetrano (large, green) olives
  • 2 large fennel bulbs, tough outer leaves discarded, bulbs, stems, and fronds separated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
  • Finely grated orange zest from most of 1 orange (1 teaspoon, but I never measure)
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 ounces thinly shaved aged provolone cheese, or another sharp cheese, such as pecorino (about 1 cup)
  • Flaky sea salt, to finish

Crush olives with a flat-bottomed cup, the side of a chef’s knife, or this ridiculous pounder I seem to use for everything but meat, and remove pit. Coarsely chop olives so that you get big, chunky pieces and add to a medium bowl. Coarsely chop fennel fronds until you have about 1/3 cup and add to bowl. Thinly, but not paper-thin, slice fennel stems crosswise and add them too. Add oil, vinegar, orange zest, and red pepper to bowl; season with kosher salt and black pepper, then stir to evenly combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as you wish.

Halve fennel bulbs lengthwise. Using a mandoline or your exceptional knife skills, very thinly shave fennel crosswise. Transfer fennel to a second, larger bowl. Zest one-quarter of lemon over. Juice the lemon over it — it will seem like too much but it’s just right. Season with salt and toss to coat; add more salt if needed.

To serve: Spread olive olive mixture on a big plate. Top with cheese. Arrange shaved fennel over, hiding the olives, then season with flaky sea salt. Or you can just toss all of it in a big bowl, but where is the drama in that.

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70 comments on shaved fennel and crushed olive salad

  1. Wanda

    As someone who loves fennel, anchovies, olives, capers, stinky cheese, zuurkool/sauerkraut, kimchi, fish sauce and most other strong-tasting, briny, stinky, divisive foods– thanks for this. I’ll definitely be trying this.

  2. Isabel

    Thank you for posting! We got both fennel and tomatoes in our CSA this week, so I am very excited to try this salad with the tomato tart, as you recommend. I am not a huge fennel fan, but love everything else in this salad. We have also been eating the endive salad you mention in the head-notes on repeat this summer… So maybe this salad will convert me (:

  3. Deanna

    This is a I’ll be making just for me. I think it seems like a perfect side to some grilled Italian sausage. (And the peanut butter chocolate cake is probably more universal that kittens)

  4. Laura

    This is perfect timing. I just bought 2 fennel with the hope for a salad but no recipe in mind. And castelvetrano olives are our current obsession. I also live by “refrigerator salads” as well so triple whammy. Can’t wait to try

  5. Francoise

    This sounds delicious! Will definitive trying this. I imagine that Manchego cheese would also work well here. I made a salad earlier this summer with fennel and cucumber dressed with lemon EVOO s&p that my fennel unconvinced teenagers said was “not bad” and went back for seconds!

  6. Amy

    And this might be the recipe that finally gets me to purchase the mandoline that’s been in my Amazon cart for the last year or so. I *need* it now, right?

    I usually prefer my fennel roasted, but with olives in the mix I think I can be converted. Thank you for the inspiration.

  7. Marissa

    Deb, thank you SO MUCH for hacking this salad. Altro was our last planned date pre-pandemic (and pre-baby!) and I was particularly looking forward to eating this dish again. We never got to go on that date, but I look forward to making this next week after our now four month old hits the hay. Truly one of my favorite salads of all time- you made my month!

  8. Jenn

    I’ve had this salad in person and I am so happy to see the recipe here because it deserves more attention! It’s so surprising how perfectly the flavors go together. I love all of these things separately but somehow together they are magical. Thanks Deb! Can’t wait to make this, or go back to Altro Paradiso to have it.

  9. Sade

    As someone who doesn’t like fennel or olives (or dogs – #sorrynotsorry), I’m so glad you got both out in one go and can resume the usual sharing of recipes with flavors we’re completely aligned on :-D

    1. Diane

      Your honesty made me lol… and I’m also amazed you don’t love dogs! I can understand the fennel and the olives, but puppies???? Nooooooo! ;)

  10. Can’t wait to try this one, it has so many flavors I love and the fennel that I waffle on. I think this will be a big hit tomorrow.
    BTW Love puppies, LOVE a fully funded USPS. Kittens, not so much. but that’s okay.

  11. Radhika

    I plan to make this recipe this week. And I highly recommend everyone make fennel frond pesto with the tops, so good! and nothing goes to waste!

  12. Laurie

    I can’t wait to try this recipe ! I love fennel and castelvetrano are my favorite olives! Thank you for another delicious recipe.

  13. Hannah

    Love, love, love the texture of shaved fennel! We got a fennel bulb in May in our veggie box, and I was so excited to have something new and interesting to eat after two months of quarantine food (and as the covid numbers in New Jersey finally start to look not as grim). I made a simple salad of shaved fennel and carrots with salt, olive oil, and lemon juice. I will forever associate that taste and texture with a bright and fresh new start. I’m looking forward to trying this salad!

  14. Jo

    This looks DELISH! Can you think of a substitution for the cheese? I don’t care for cheese–would love an idea for a replacement. Thank you!!

  15. Bethany

    I LOVE fennel. And olives. I got into fennel salads when I was doing Blue Apron, and keep looking for it at our local grocery stores. I can’t ever find it, but when I do, I know what I’ll do with it. And that is make this salad.

  16. Lindsay

    This looks divine 👏 Please tell me you’ve seen Amy Schumer Learns To Cook?? Her husband has a strong affinity for contentious root vegetables, and it’s quite hilarious 🤣 Love this, love you, love fennel, and love the USPS 💙 #firetheliar

    1. Michele Montllor

      I second everything you said. Haven’t been able to get my friends to watch Amy, but I think the show is hilarious, especially her husband’s love of vegetables which don’t get enough prime time.

  17. Avra

    Puppies are not for everyone either! I don’t like them. So I think the only thing left on your list that has yet to be contested is the postal service. :)

  18. Holly

    I am headed to the grocery store immediately to grab whatever else I need to make this. Fennel is amazing. You are amazing. And the fennel ice cream is the second most amazing thing on this site (I’m partial to the everyday chocolate cake, which I could eat every day)—I make the ice cream every Christmas Eve for our guests and everyone raves. The natives are restless and demand more fennel!

  19. Barbara D.

    This is a brillianr recipe. I love things that i can prep and have ready when hunger strikes. The olive mixture is really unusual and tasty. The first time imassembled the salad i found the lemon juice in the fennel was too much, so the second time i add a some avocado slices to balnce it out. I can highly recommend it.

  20. Lucy

    Can’t wait to try it!!! My go to fennel salad includes celeriac, parsley, ultra lemony dressing and a ton of pomegranate seeds—love how different and delicious this sounds.

  21. Kel

    For me, this particular recipe would be a hard no, as I loathe both fennel and olives, but I have to agree on the appeal of simple salads. They don’t need to have 17 ingredients, they don’t need a bunch of separate steps. They just need a balance of flavor and texture. Even though this one isn’t for me, I definitely see the appeal in it for others.

  22. Barb Blake

    This looks interesting, but I’m not a fan of castelvetrano olives (unless they are smoked and then they’re amazing). Is there another type of olive that would work well – kalamata, or monzanilla? I figured the kalamata might have too much flavor and would compete with the fennel.

    1. Allie

      I used Kalamata (all I had) and it worked really well. I often make a simple fennel salad with orange slices (and quite a lot of nice vinegar, olive oil, s+p), but this is next level..thanks Deb!!

  23. Ryan Jenkins

    I love fennel but hate olives – any suggestions on substitutions for the latter? I love everything else about this recipe.

  24. Helen in CA

    This sounds so tasty & will be trying it soon.

    Question: Deb could you add suggestions what you serve w/ to make dinner? (moving to eating more plant-based food so my old model of protein + 2 veg/carb doesn’t work). Thanks

  25. SADIE R ONDICK

    Ooh! I can’t wait to make this. When I read your post last week pouting about fennel I remembered it had been a while. We had a salad of fennel, apple, walnuts and pecorino. Surprisingly, it went over well with the children. Thanks for the reminder. I am afraid if we don’t purchase these ingredients here in rural Montana the stores will stop stocking them.

  26. Keyan Kaplan

    This looks so delicious. Can’t wait to try it.
    Add a question mark to your final sentence-for more drama.
    Love your blog.

  27. Chris B

    I had some fennel languishing in the fridge, and some large green olives. I didn’t have an orange, and these days I don’t pop over to the store to get one missing ingredient. Instead I used a dash of orange bitters. I’m sure real orange peel would be better, but it worked: the mix of orange and fennel is delicious. The olives add a salty, oily punch. Next time I buy fennel I’ll make sure to get an orange as well.

  28. Julia

    I saw the pictures and had to make it. It’s so delicious. I added some chopped/hand crumbled walnuts and it adds a little bit of a different texture.

    Thank you!

  29. EWSTX

    Fennel shaved on a mandolin, oranges sliced
    alternate the paper thin fennel and orange
    drizzle with balsamic vinegar and lightly salt and pepper
    chill
    when you are ready to serve, drizzle just a little olive oil
    Perfect summer fennel…

  30. Deb, we are all in the doldrums. Just read your email and here’s what you said: But what I really need is a few good suggestions, dishes I’d forgotten and, in fact, would love to eat right now, or recipes that are new to me but now absolutely necessary to make happen.
    Don’t forget your 3 ingredient zucchini saute. Don’t forget that anything can be put in a galette and don’t forget that incredible gin/cucumber/spicy cocktail from a few days ago. Make that blueberry crumble coffee cake you have on your site but put in chopped apples or pears or nothing. Make something that makes you happy. I have made all of the above and so many more. Hang in there, girl. We all must carry on.

  31. Isabel

    Made this the other night and loved it! I am not a big fennel fan, so I only used half of what the recipe calls for–but it was so good that next time I’ll be brave and use the full amount (:

    We used a can of cheap green olives and it was still great. I bet with nice castelvetrano olives it would be incredible. We also added ~1 cup of chickpeas to the olive part to bulk it up (a la the chickpea/olive salad in the first SK cookbook) and it worked great! I forgot the cheese, making it vegan, and we didn’t notice the omission at all.

  32. Amanda

    Oh man!!! This was the perfect way to use up the fennel bulb I’d gotten from our CSA. My husband does not like fennel, so I made this just for me and it was delicious. I think it was even better the second day.

  33. Lynn

    I cannot WAIT to try this! Fennel and olives are two of my favorite things to eat – and fennel/orange is such a fantastic combo. I’m also curious if some of the capers I have in my fridge might make their way into this as well… Thank you for posting!

  34. Pam

    This is a very lovely, fresh salad. Made this to serve with grilled salmon. It was delish (salad, but also the salmon). We were surprised we liked it so much, given we don’t like an obvious anise flavor in food (or drink) if it’s not black licorice candy. The citrus nicely balances, even cancels any strong anise flavor that might be there (a plus). Will definitely make again.

  35. Alexa Doig

    Awesome salad! Had to add some honey to the dressing – too tart, even for my taste. Thanks for the tip on crushing the olives with a knife. The rough texture of the olives is perfect!

  36. Laura

    This was sooooooo good. It was better than I expected, and I already had high hopes. It’s milder all together than each ingredient suggests, and is so lovely as a dish. Thank you

  37. Lauren G.

    Thank you for posting!!

    I live in San Francisco (after leaving NYC) and this is my NYC routine:

    Get off plane and get to wherever I’m staying.

    Walk/subway/whatever to Altro Paradiso.

    Order this salad.
    (Eat the ricotta and bread while waiting for salad)

    Eat the salad.

    Repeat daily until I fly home.

  38. Shannon

    I am literally eating this as I type. It is delicious! The fennel is pretty mellow in this, and by that I mean the first bite is salty, sour, crunchy and buttery. I think this would be incredible with a roasted pork, but on it’s own, it’s marvellous. I have never had castelvetrano olives before and I am a convert! They do taste like butter. I bought a big jar at Costco Canada just today. I doubt it will last long.

  39. Jessica

    This turned out great! The used the suggested pecorino in place of the aged provolone, because I already had it on hand and I made a half sized recipe for my family of three – the 2 year old even ate some! I will be making this again, thanks for the recipe.

  40. springpansy

    I’ve never cooked with fennel. I know, sheesh. This was a delicious salad and a big hit with others at our dinner last night. It’s a keeper. Thanks!

  41. Stacy

    I have never heard of castelvetrano olives. What sort of olive are they? Salty, like a kalamata? Or more like a regular old salad olive? If I cant find those, what could I use to substitute? I love all sorts of olives so this sounds great – looking forward to trying this!

  42. Jan Hazelton

    This didn’t sound as good as it tasted. Wow! What a knockout. Served this at a socially distanced back yard bbq with home made pizza. It was a hit. Sliced the fennel thinly by hand, no need for a mandoline. The slightly larger pieces give a good bite/ crunch
    Extraordinary salad. Highly recommend.

  43. Kristin

    This is so delicious I want to eat it forever and ever and never stop. These are some of my favorite flavors in the perfect combination. Thank you! It kept well overnight even after it was all mixed and tasted just as food thrown over some arugula. I’ll definitely make it again!

  44. Lindsey

    I’ve never been a huge fan of raw fennel but decided to give this a try anyway. It was SO GOOD. Loved the balance of flavors. I made it as recipe was written, used pecorino romano and decided to toss it all together instead of layer it. This is my new favorite salad. I served it with your Tomato Tart and Strawberry Summer Cake for dessert. It was a Smitten Kitchen bash! Thanks, Deb!

  45. Mit

    I dislike people who say the 900 changes they made … but like most of us, I’m having to work with what’s on hand. I didn’t have the aged provolone or pecorino but knew they added some “salty” to the salad – so I made due with feta. It was a great substitution. Served this at a Saturday brunch with Orange Marmalade French toast casserole, baked bacon, and mimosas. It was a hit. THANK YOU Deb!

  46. Suma

    Wouldn’t have expected to like these flavors but at this point I’ve learned to trust you Deb! Loved this! And saving the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

  47. Dahlink

    We’ve made this twice now, the first time exactly as written, and the second time omitting the orange zest and the cheese because I was out of both. I used lemon zest in place of the orange. Both times I served this with the tomato tart, which had pecorino cheese in it, and we didn’t miss the cheese the second time around. May husband called this dinner a “flavor bomb” (in a good way).