Active Time: 25 MINTotal Time25 MIN
Yield: Serves : 4 to 6
Ashkenazi Jewish food has a reputation as being greasy and a bit bland. And as the saying goes, there is some truth to every stereotype. My Eastern European ancestors certainly enjoyed their share of fresh produce—everything from the chilled sour cherry soups they cooled down with during the summer months to the spicy black radishes they ate all winter. And yet, most of the dishes one associates with Ashkenazi cuisine—things like potato kugel and knishes, stuffed cabbage and chopped liver—tend decidedly toward the heavier side.
I happen to love this Jewish soul food for exactly what it is—nourishing and deeply comforting. But as a 21st century cook, my taste buds also demand freshness. So on Hanukkah, when fried foods make up the majority of the menu, I like to balance out the table with one or more bright, crisp, and colorful salads.
This particular mix of fennel and grapefruit is not traditional to any particular subset of Jewish cuisine, but it is inspired by the citrus-and-herb-forward salads of North Africa and the Middle East. The fennel lends crunch and delicate flavor, while the grapefruit’s sweet-tart acidity cuts through the oil in the latkes.
The dressing is enhanced with two hallmark ingredients of the region’s cuisine. The first is silan, a richly flavored, molasses-textured syrup made from boiled dates (you can used date syrup). The second, baharat, is the salad’s shining star. Baharat is a compound spice containing some variety of allspice, cardamom, cumin, ginger, rose petals, coriander, cinnamon, and chile peppers, among other spices. (Not surprisingly, the word “baharat” simply means “spices” in Arabic.) Whisked into the dressing, it permeates the dish, adding intrigue and complex flavor. Many varieties of baharat are available online; my favorite brand is made by New York Shuk.
I eat variations of this salad all winter long. But on Hanukkah, for an Ashkenazi-meets-Middle Eastern mashup, I prefer to heap it on top of latkes like a refreshing slaw.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon date syrup or honey
- 2 teaspoons baharat
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium fennel bulbs, halved lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
- 3 scallions, very thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/4 cup roughly torn fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 cup Marcona almonds, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
- 2 Ruby Red grapefruits, peeled and segmented (about 2 cups)
How to Make It
In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, date syrup, baharat, salt, and pepper.
Place fennel, scallions, mint, and almonds in a large bowl. Drizzle vinaigrette over fennel mixture, and toss to coat. Add grapefruit; gently toss to combine. Transfer to a large serving platter, and sprinkle with additional mint and almonds. Serve immediately.
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