The components (cut fennel, cut celery, cleaned arugula, squeezed lemon) can be prepared in advance and very quickly and easily assembled, ala minute (to order). Fresh orange segments or pomegranate seeds are a nice complement to this dish.
1 fresh fennel bulb
2 to 3 celery ribs
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 bunch baby arugula
1/2 pound Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, sliced
Makes 4 servings.
Trim the branches of the fennel so they are even with the bulb. (Reserve trimmings for a vegetable stock or other recipe.) Trim the base if it appears dark or bruised. Remove any damaged layers. Next, cut the fennel bulb in quarters, lengthwise. You will notice a wedge-shaped core at the base. Cut out and discard it as you would remove the core from a head of romaine.
Lay the quartered and trimmed fennel on the cutting board and slice it thinly into lengthwise strips. Be sure to cut with the striations on the fennel; do not cross-cut. (You may use a mandolin-type cutter for this step in order to get even, thin slices. If you have very good knife skills, you can proceed manually.)
Cut the celery ribs into 3-inch lengths. Lay the pieces down on the cutting board and slice them in half lengthwise. Cut them in half (also lengthwise) again to reduce their thickness, if needed. Finally, cut them lengthwise into very thin strips. Place in a bowl of ice water to retain (or increase) crispness.
Place the cut fennel and celery (well drained and patted dry) in a mixing bowl. Toss with the lemon juice and olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Check the seasoning but keep in mind that you want to taste the fennel and celery — in other words, don’t overdo it!
Place the dressed fennel and celery in the center of 4 large plates. Push the mounds outward to the edge of the plates, creating an even, flat surface.
Place the baby arugula in the same bowl the vegetables were dressed in. Mix it well with whatever seasoning coats the bowl (or add a little more) to very lightly dress the arugula. Place small piles of the arugula in the center of the arranged vegetables, making sure the arugula stays up high in neat bunches, leaving the plate with a ring of the pale green vegetables.
Carefully arrange the Parmigiano slices on the plate: Span and lean them between the arugula and the vegetables, proceeding around the plate and using 6 or so slices for each. Finish each plate with a drizzle of olive oil and serve. Per serving: 300 calories (59 percent from fat), 19.8 g fat (10.3 g saturated, 7.2 g monounsaturated), 49.9 mg cholesterol, 22.9 g protein, 8.6 g carbohydrates, 2.4 g fiber, 923.4 mg sodium.