Bittman's Minimalist talked about a celery-fennel salad that sounded interesting for two reasons: the celery and fennel have similar texture but different flavors, and I get to use my mandoline. You could slice this with a knife but fennel works better when sliced very thin, and the mandoline is the tool for that!
First, about a mandoline: it's a simple device that slides food past a very sharp blade. When I say very, I mean very! Use the hand guard, and be very, very careful. (Ask me how I know!) Mandolines range from $20 to several hundred (!), and several of the less-expensive models are excellent. Check the reviews in the cooking magazines and on Amazon before you buy.
Update: I found a simple, $22, ceramic-blade mandoline that is a perfect compromise. Read more...
Or, use a knife, it will be great.
About fennel. It's a plant that has a light licorice-like flavor. That sounds like an odd choice for a salad but it's very good and once you start using it (and anise, which is also licorice-flavored), you will use it more and more. The fennel plant has a large, pale green bulb, which is the part we use in this recipe. The green fronds (which look like dill) are also used in some recipes here, I mainly for garnish). And the seeds are also frequent food fare.
This was a delicious, refreshing salad, a nice change of pace. It looked like a lot of dressing, so I only used half of what's called for. That was about right. The following recipe has the amounts halved.
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, some fronds reserved
3 celery ribs, trimmed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste (not much)
¼ teaspoon black pepper, more to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved into strips with vegetable peeler
1. Cut fennel bulbs in quarters lengthwise, discarding outer layer if it is exceedingly tough. Use a mandoline to slice quarters thinly; slice celery equally thin.
2. Put sliced fennel and celery into a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently to combine. Top with lots of freshly shaved Parmesan and chopped fennel fronds if you like.