You know when a salad is just a love letter? No? I sound crazy? Ok, cool. To be honest, I expected that. But I’m still going to defend my “love letter” of a salad, because you know when a salad hits your plate, and it just has everything you’ve ever wanted? Crisp, but not to crunchy greens, a hint of sweetness, a touch of acid, and then a creamy element that doesn’t overpower the rest of the bowl. That’s my dream salad. That’s a salad that calls to me. And that, ladies and everyone, is exactly what this fennel salad with ground cherries and toum IS.
It’s a dream of textures and flavors. And yes, there are some unfamiliar elements in here, but once you try them or find them once, you’ll be adding ground cherries (AKA golden berries!) and Toum (a Lebanese garlic spread!) to your daily rotations. Read on for more on how to make this perfect salad, and how to incorporate these simple techniques into your salad-making life!
Table of contents
First, let’s talk about what makes this fennel salad so special
This fennel salad is coming to you with a lot of components, all of which together build the “dressing” of the salad.
This salad doesn’t really have a dressing, it just has so many flavorful components that it *feels* like it has a dressing! The first of the flavorful components is the vinegared beets, where sweet beets are tossed in vinegar to make a perfectly balanced bite that adds a softer texture to the salad, but a ton of flavor and interest as well.
The second thing that makes this salad so special is the ground cherries, which add a sweetness, but not overtly so. When they are chopped finely, they create a semi-dressing that really makes this salad something special.
And lastly, this salad uses Toum, which is Arabic for “garlic,” but also the word for a Lebanese garlic sauce. And with a swipe of toum layer the outside of every bowl, you can pick and choose how much garlicky goodness you want in each bite. The salad almost melts into the sauce, making it one of my favorite ways to play with my food.
What are ground cherries and where can I find them?
Ground cherries are often called husk cherries or golden berries. They are of the tomatillo family, and they are delicious!
Ground cherries can also go by “cape gooseberries,” and they look like small, orange tomatillos (see image above). Once peeled, they look like small orange cherry tomatoes. They are native to North & South America and they are harvestable in summer, but their season can stretch into fall. Their taste is best described as subtly sweet, with some notes of tropical fruit, but also of baking spices.
What is toum?
Now Toum, is a delicious garlic-based sauce that is native to the Middle East, but highly regional, and varies depending on where it is made, but the undisputable fact is that it is delicious.
It’s pronounced “toom” and is Arabic for “garlic.” The sauce itself is typically made of garlic, lemon juice, vegetable oil and salt. I will admit, my first time making this recipe my toum came out a bit too thick for my liking, but I’ve since fixed it!
Now traditionally toum was made by crushing the ingredients with mortar and pestle, but we’re a bit lazier here, so I opted for a food processor. You can store it in your fridge and it keeps for a few weeks, so I’m a huge toum advocate.
How to store toum for this fennel and vinegared beets salad
So if you want to make a big vat of toum and have it ready for whenever you want to make this salad, I totally get it. The best way to store toum for this fennel salad is to keep it in an airtight container in your fridge. I recommend tupperware of some sort. It will keep for 2 weeks!
You can also freeze it. It will keep for 4 months that way, but to thaw it you’ll want to do it slowly by moving it to your refrigerator.
Looking for similar recipes?
I love a good salad, so here are a few others that have been piquing my interest lately!
And that’s everything for this fennel salad recipe!
And of course feel free to leave any questions, comments or reviews! This is the best place to reach me, and I’d love to hear from you <3
Fennel Salad with Vinegared Beets, Ground Cherries & Toum
- 1 chef's knife
- 1 mandolin
- Aluminum foil
- food processor
For the fennel salad
- 3 medium orange beets
- 1 medium head of fennel fronds removed
- 1/2 pint (8 ounces) ground cherries also known as golden berries or husk cherries
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar plus more to taste
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups cooked barley or farro
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lemon for juicing
For the toum
- 2 cups garlic cloves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1 lemon for juicing
- 2 1/2 cups avocado oil
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Cut the tops off of each beet and wrap them individually in aluminum foil. Add them to the center rack of the oven and roast for 35-45 minutes, or until tender. Set aside to cool.
- While the beets are roasting, prepare the toum.
- Add the garlic cloves to a food processor. Pulse until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the salt and the lemon juice and food process until the garlic begins to form a paste.
- While the food processor is running, stream in the oil a few tablespoons at a time. The mixture will begin to look whipped, smooth and fluffy. After two cups of oil have been added, taste the toum and add more salt and lemon juice as needed. It will still taste a bit sharp, but that mellows with time. Continue to stream in the remaining oil until you have a white, fluffy, nearly smooth garlic spread. Taste and season.
- Set the toum aside, knowing the bite of the garlic will mellow a bit as it sits.
- Next, use a mandolin to thinly slice the fennel bulb, shaving the pieces as thinly as possible. Remove the stalks and slice them thinly on a diagonal, using either a sharp knife or the mandolin. Add both these cuts to a large bowl.
- Roughly chop the ground cherries until they are almost a paste.
- When the beets are out of the oven, gently peel off the skin and slice them into wedges. Add the wedges to a medium bowl and season with the white wine vinegar and a few pinches of salt. Mix, taste, and add more vinegar as preferred.
- Mix together the fennel, ground cherries, and season with a drizzle of olive oil. Mix to combine, then add the vinegared beets and the cooked barley. Give this a few big tosses to combine. Season with a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste, and if needed, squeeze over some fresh lemon juice.
- To serve, add a swipe of toum to each serving bowl and wipe it around the sides of the bowl. Pile the salad directly in the middle. Serve immediately!