Fennel is a delicious vegetable that looks and has a texture similar to celery, but is more fibrous. I love its mild licorice taste. The trick to fennel is cutting it paper thin -- think 1/16" or less. Much thicker and you'll feel like a cow chewing its never-ending cud.
The best tool for the job is the mandoline. Mine is an oxo and truthfully, I don't use it very often. However, when I need it, there is really no other utensil that can do the job. You can pay whatever you want for a mandoline, from about $20 dollars up to several hundred dollars. Because it isn't a high-use item in my kitchen, I'm wasn't compelled to go for the high end. My mandoline, which I received as a gift, retails for about $60 dollars
The salad couldn't be simpler. Here's the recipe:
Cyn's Fennel Salad
1 large bulb fennel
6 or 7 mandarin oranges
1 ripe avocado
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Use a mandoline or very sharp knife to cut the fennel bulb into paper-thin slices. You won't need the stalks or the pretty fronds, so put them aside.
Peel the mandarins and half-heartedly squeeze them into a bowl with the fennel. You want to express some, but not all of the juice because you put the sections into the salad, too, and you don't want tasteless segments.
So your bowl now contains the slivered fennel and the mandarin segments and juice.
Chop the avocado into small, 1/2" or so cubes. Drizzle the whole thing with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Toss and devour!
You'll never miss the lettuce!