Fennel, Cherry Tomato & Chicken Salad with Toasted Pistachios

Fennel, Cherry Tomato & Chicken Salad with Toasted Pistachios

I never thought I’d shout about one of those look-what-I-made-from-the-random-stuff-in-the-fridge salads today, or tell you that it belongs on your festive Easter table or in the spread of a baby shower brunch you might be hosting. But this one turned out so well, especially when I recast the crunchy side dish as a main, with the addition of shredded chicken. And so I thought it might be useful to tell you more about what happens when you combine paper-thin fennel with crunchy lettuce, cherry tomatoes, a spicy garlic vinaigrette, and toasted pistachios, in case you’re looking for a healthful but substantial dish that’s easy to make ahead and totally fine to serve at room temperature.

Here’s how the combination of ingredients happened.

After being out all day, we got back to our neighborhood really tired and hungry. I finally worked up the energy to cook dinner, but I used every hands-off cooking tip I could think of. I plopped a filet of Arctic char into a 300°F oven with olive oil, salt, and lemon wedges (you can cook salmon or char this way without worrying about over-cooking). I smashed garlic cloves and didn’t chop them. I grated carrots and sweet potatoes so I didn’t have to dice them. Those veggies went into my Instant Pot with rice, onions, broth, and rosemary to emerge as no-stirring-necessary pressure-cooker risotto in minutes.

So then, fish in the oven and rice in the pot, I had gone so hands off that I had nothing to do. And so I decided to make a salad. There wasn’t that much lettuce, but there was a bulb of fennel, a half pint of cherry tomatoes, and some garlic. Crucially, there were also pistachios. I threw them in with the fish, to toast, then got to work halving the tomatoes and shaving the fennel as thinly as I could. I grated the garlic into a simple red wine vinaigrette, for punch and spice. And I actually chopped the bit of lettuce I did have, matching it volume-wise with the slices of fennel for a mix of crunchy and leafy. When the pistachios had toasted, I pulled them out, chopped them, and sprinkled the pieces on top.

Fennel, Cherry Tomato & Chicken Salad with Toasted Pistachios

The Instant Pot pinged and I lifted the from its baking dish. The whole lazy dinner required as little attention as I’d hoped and tasted better than expected. But it was the salad that stuck in my mind as a useful and tasty offering to share here. (Though I should tell you more about Instant Pot soon.)

With the addition of chicken later on, this becomes a main course dish that’d be welcome in any party spread, I think. It’s also, less fancily, a good candidate for brown bag lunching.Fennel, Cherry Tomato & Chicken Salad with Toasted Pistachios

Fennel, Cherry Tomato & Chicken Salad with Toasted Pistachios
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
Toast the pistachios in a dry pan or in a 350°F oven, taking them out when they're fragrant and golden. Cool before chopping.
For the chicken:
  • A few stems of fennel from the bulb you'll use for the salad below
  • 1 slice onion
  • 1 small stalk celery
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 10 ounces)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
For the salad:
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated on a Microplane or minced with salt
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 bulb fennel, core removed and very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes
  • A few handfuls of lettuce--green or red leaf, or romaine, chopped
  • ⅓ cup toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
Poach the chicken:
  1. In a small pot, bring a few inches of water to boil. Add 2 or 3 of the stems of the fennel, plus a slice of onion and a stalk of celery. Add the chicken and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper. Return the pot to a low simmer, turn to low, cover, and cook for 25 minutes. When the chicken is done, cool until it's easy to handle, then use two forks to shred it.
Make the salad:
  1. In a serving bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, and mustard to combine. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking as you go, so the dressing thickens. Taste for salt (I use a piece of fennel), adding more as needed.
  2. Toss in the fennel, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, and shredded chicken. Set aside for at least 10 minutes, to let the veggies soften and the flavors meld. When you're ready to eat, add half the pistachios. Arrange on a serving dish, topped with the remaining pistachios.


This post is part of Food Network’s Sensational Sides blog collaboration. This week, everyone is posting about Easter sides. Here are other bloggers’ recipes:

The Lemon Bowl: Roasted Asparagus and Tangerines with Toasted Almonds
Devour: Have a Hoppin’ Easter with These Remixed Brunch and Dinner Dishes
Creative Culinary: Deviled Eggs with Lemon Zest, Capers and Chives
The Mom 100: Spring Greens Salad with Kohlrabi and Golden Beets
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Vanilla Pudding with Fruit Jam Topping
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Sauteed Broccolini With Garlic And Chile On Toast
Red or Green: Pasta With Kale, Garlic & Calabrian Chile
Big Girls, Small Kitchen: Fennel & Cherry Tomato Salad with Toasted Pistachios
Healthy Eats: 5 Spring Sides for a Healthier Easter Feast
Taste with the Eyes: Butter Lettuce Cups with Fried Goat Cheese, Green Apple, Meyer Lemon Cream
The Wimpy Vegetarian: Creamy Feta and Asparagus Casserole with Orzo
FN Dish: 5 Side Dishes That Are More Important Than the Easter Ham

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