Nov 1, 2010

Fennel, radicchio and apple salad

Thanksgiving starters don’t need to be heart-stopping!

The typical Thanksgiving meal contains over 2,000 calories and up to 120 grams of fat.

It’s a holiday that can spell disaster for people like me, who are sticking to a heart-healthy diet. But hey, Thanksgiving dinner is my favorite meal of the year, and I’m not about to give up mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie or anything else. So in this Healthy Thanksgiving series, I’ll showcase a delicious holiday feast that won’t clog up your arteries. I’m focusing on vegetarian and/or vegan side dishes, but I’ll also tip you off to turkey recipes that don’t call for smothering the bird with an entire stick of butter.

To kick things off, I’ll start with starters. Some people serve fatty artichoke parmesan dip or baked brie as Thanksgiving appetizers, and I wonder how they can handle that when there’s turkey and stuffing on the way. Here are three delicious, guilt-free appetizers that won’t leave you groaning even before dinner is served:

Marinated Olives with Lemon, Thyme and Rosemary from Eating Well
Muhammara with Crudites from Cooking Light
Bruschetta with Swiss Chard, Pine Nuts and Currants from Epicurious

Once everyone sits down at the dinner table, it’s nice to start out with a refreshing salad rather than a heavy cream-based soup. My fennel, radicchio and apple salad is a crisp, sweet-tart kickoff to the Thanksgiving feast.

Fennel, Radicchio and Apple Salad

1 medium head radicchio, cored and thinly sliced

1 large or two small fennel bulbs, sliced paper thin with a mandoline, fronds reserved

1 large crisp, sweet apple (such as Cortland or Gala), unpeeled, thinly sliced with a mandoline

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (use a gluten-free variety if you are gluten sensitive)

1 small shallot, finely minced

Pinch of salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil  (optional variation: substitute hazelnut or walnut oil for 1 tablespoon of the olive oil)

1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Combine the radicchio, fennel and apple in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Pour half of dressing over vegetables and stir to combine. Taste, and gradually add more dressing until it’s to your liking.  Garnish with fennel fronds and pecans.

Serves 4-6

Coming next in my Healthy Thanksgiving series:  Mashed potatoes

See more recipes: Gluten-free, Holiday recipes, Salads, Vegan


  • I love radicchio and this salad looks fantastic.

    I’d love for you to submit one of your beautiful photos, and a link to your post, to my new vegetarian photo gallery showcasing the best vegetarian dishes and recipes on the web.

  • Oh wow, this looks so, so tasty! I never know what to do with fennel.

  • Just stumbled upon your website. Bravo to you for taking your health into your own hands! Love your Thanksgiving ideas, although I have yet to sit down to the big dinner and “start” with a bowl of soup. Usually all of the food we’re going to eat is on the table and we all dig in. We’re a classy bunch. :) I would like to do it the “fancy” way, at some point in my life.

  • Ef

    That salad will definitely make its way onto my table this year. It’s almost like a lighter version of a Waldorf (which I offered to my turkey day guests last year, but no-one ate).

    How long can you let the apples sit without turning color?

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Ef, I wouldn’t make this too far ahead for that reason. You can toss the apples with some lemon juice which might help. As an aside, this is also great with fig balsamic vinegar in the dressing, but it’s a very dark color so the salad doesn’t look as pretty. I learned that the hard way – I had to change the dressing and re-photograph the salad! My only other tip is that a mandoline is essential for this salad, especially for the fennel.

  • Great recipe! We’re making it today and we posted it to all of our wine fans @ . Thanks!

  • I made this salad for thanksgiving and wrote about it here. We thought the radicchio made the salad a bit on the bitter side, but I added in some raisins and it was a home run. Thank you for the recipe. I will be making it again for sure.

  • Viewed it today on Gojee, sounded so good a to try it for dinner. Good food Cathy, good food.

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