Fennel Panzanella Salad

The perfect verdant side for heavier holiday mains.

By Karen Akunowicz
Nov 9, 2023
A bowl of leafy salad with croutons, slices of red onion, fresh herbs, and pomegranate seeds, served with a pair of salad servers on a tabletop with a terracotta cloth.
45 Minutes
8 - 10 Servings

Thanksgiving tends to lean towards beige—between the turkey, gravy, and accompanying starches, a pop of color can be desperately needed (green bean casserole hardly counts).

This recipe, featured in our Thanksgiving 2023 menu and from Boston-based Chef Karen Akunowicz’s new cookbook “Crave: Bold Recipes That Make You Want Seconds” provides some much-needed color without compromising on taste. It’s verdant, zesty, fresh, and exactly what you need between heavier holiday dishes.

Note: This recipe was developed using Diamond Crystal kosher salt. If using Morton’s, reduce salt by half.

Fennel Panzanella Salad

The perfect verdant side for heavier holiday mains.

Karen Akunowicz

45 Minutes
8 - 10 Servings
  • For the old-school red wine vinaigrette:
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • ½ cup neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • For the lime-pickled onions:
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from 5–6 limes)
  • For the salad:
  • 6 slices sourdough bread, sliced ½-” thick
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large heads fennel (about 1 pound), fronds removed and ½ cup of them reserved
  • 6 cups arugula, cleaned
  • ¼ cup pomegranate arils
  • 2 cups basil leaves, torn
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (finely grated using a rasp grater)
  • Sumac, for dusting

    To make the old-school red wine vinaigrette: Combine vinegar, lemon zest and juice, Dijon, salt, pepper, and shallot in a blender. Blend until smooth, about 2 minutes on high speed. Combine both oils in a cup or a small bowl, then stream into blender while running on low speed. Stir in oregano and store in an airtight container in fridge for up to a month.


    To make the lime-pickled onions: Use a Chef Knife to cut off top of onion but leave root intact. Slice lengthwise down middle and lay both halves flat on cutting board. Remove root and slice thinly down one onion half, slicing lengthwise with grain. Do same for other half of onion. Place onion in a medium bowl, then add salt and sumac and rub them with your hands. Add lime juice and cover for at least an hour. Onion slices will turn a beautiful pink color the longer they pickle. Store in an airtight container in fridge for up to 3 weeks.


    To toast the bread: Heat an Enameled Cast Iron Skillet or large Carbon Steel Frying Pan over medium, or prepare a grill for medium heat. Brush both sides of bread with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toast in the Skillet or grill until there is a beautiful char on both sides, 2–3 minutes per side, then use a Bread Knife to cut into bite-size pieces.


    To prep the fennel: Use a Chef Knife to remove the stalks, reserving some of the fronds for serving. Cut bulbs lengthwise, through root. Remove root end and slice thinly from top to bottom using either a knife or a mandoline. If prepping in advance, hold the sliced fennel in a bowl of ice water.


    To make the salad: Combine fennel, arugula, ½ cup of lime-pickled onions, and pomegranate arils in a Serving Bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add ½ cup of old-school red wine vinaigrette and toss well. Add cubed bread, basil, and reserved fennel fronds and toss to combine. Add another 2 Tbsp. of vinaigrette and make sure it is well dressed. Divide among bowls and finish with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a dusting of sumac.