I had a version of this salad in Chicago at a gourmet fast casual spot named Belly Shack. It was served vegan style which I appreciated because I was taking out my vegan friend whom I was staying with. It was the best quinoa salad I had ever had and I was bent on trying to recreate it. They used Asian pair but I decided to use mango because they are so plentiful now in season. I love kimchi style vegetables. Fennel is so underused as a vegetable and it is so lovely for its crunch and anise flavor. This salad has interesting and dynamic ingredient combinations that will let your guests go hmmm….. what is that, I want so more and can I have the recipe. I say share it so we can have a double fennel revolution. You can use the dried spice in more than just sausage and Italian cuisine. Putting the salad in lettuce leaves really brings it over the top. People like to eat with their hands because it is so messy and fun. I hope this salad brings you lots of joy and sneaky smiles on your face for summer

Serves 6

Mango-Fennel Kimchi:

1 large Mango, peeled and diced small

1 bulb fennel, core removed and thinly sliced

1 English cucumber, small diced

½ red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons lime juice

½ cup sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar or palm sugar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon Korean chili flakes or 1 teaspoon dried hot pepper or to taste

Marinated Chicken: (Optional)

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 tablespoons peeled and minced garlic cloves

2 tablespoons peeled and minced ginger

1 tablespoon sambal chili sauce or Siracha

Quinoa Salad:

2 cups quinoa

3 cups water

¼ cup cilantro, minced

¼ cup mint, minced

¼ cup Thai basil or regular basil, minced

1 tablespoon dill, minced (optional)

To Assemble and Serve:

2 heads Bibb lettuce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons sriracha chili sauce

For the Mango -Fennel Kimchi: 

Make the kimchi by combining the Mango, fennel, cucumber, onion, and salt. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes. Add the vinegar, the sweet chili sauce, sugar, sesame oil, fennel seeds, and Korean chili flakes and leave overnight.

For the Marinated Chicken: 

Remove the fat from the chicken thighs. Combine the garlic, ginger, sweet chili sauce and sambal. Pour the mixture over the chicken and marinate overnight. The next day, preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Let the chicken cool, then chop.

For the Quinoa  Salad: 

Combine the quinoa and water in a medium pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then lower heat and cover. Cook for 8 minutes, stir and then cook for an additional 5 minutes. Spread the cooked quinoa on a baking sheet to cool. When ready to serve, toss a ¼ cup of the kimchi with the herbs and the cooked quinoa.

To Assemble and Serve: 

Remove the core from the Bibb lettuce, leaving the leaves whole. Remove the individual leaves and rinse clean. Arrange the lettuce, quinoa, kimchi, and chicken on platters. Serve the sesame oil and sriracha on the side as dipping sauces. Invite guests to create lettuce wraps.