Asian pears are not typically used in traditional Italian cuisine, but Chef Nicotra excels at inserting nontraditional but delicious products into his menu. This is a great salad for the fall or winter, when Asian pears are in season. At Felidia, we serve it with puffed wild rice on top, which adds an interesting crunchy texture and gives a bit of bite. The slight licorice flavor of the fennel really complements the sweetness of the crisp Asian pear.
- 3 medium fennel bulbs, with fronds
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 large Asian pears
- One 2-ounce piece aged pecorino, for grating
- ⅓ cup chopped pistachios, toasted
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the bulbs from the fennel tops. Reserve 2 packed cups of fronds and chopped tender portions of the tops, and set aside.
Core and very thinly slice two of the fennel bulbs. Keep them in ice water while you prepare the rest of the salad. Core and slice the remaining bulb into pieces about ¼ inch thick. Place on a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the reserved fennel tops and fronds, and blanch until bright green and tender, about 3 minutes. Shock in an ice bath, and pat dry. Put in a blender with 1 tablespoon of the oil and 2 tablespoons water. Blend to make a smooth purée, adding a little more water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.
To assemble the salad, whisk 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add up to 1 more tablespoon lemon juice, to taste. Thinly slice the Asian pears, and add them to the bowl. Drain the uncooked fennel, pat very dry, and add to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and toss well.
To serve, spread four serving plates with the fennel purée. Top with the roasted fennel, then mound the salad on top of that. Finely grate pecorino over each serving, sprinkle with pistachios, and grind black pepper over all. Serve immediately.