The fewer the ingredients, it seems to me, the more important each one becomes. Since you can't get 'fewer' than one and still have any dish at all, the finocchio is pretty important to this one.
I tried my hand at growing my own fennel last summer. At the time I didn't know there was a difference in the taste between "male" & "female" bulbs. In fact, I didn't even realize that fennel wasn't asexual. Fortuantely for me, my little deck garden produced both.
Here's what Marcella has to say about selecting fennel bulbs: "Italian's distinguish between male and female finocchio, the first with a stocky, round blub, the latter flat and elongated. The "male" is crisper and less stringy, and it has a finer scent, qualities that are particularly desirable when it is to be eaten raw."
Preparing fennel salad is a study in simplicity. Choose one or two "male" bulbs (depending on size). Trim and wash, then slice into very thin slices. Since I'm not exactly a pro with my knife skills, I used a mandolin for control and uniformity. Soak in cold water and dry.
Toss in a serving bowl with salt, enough olive oil to coat it well, and add plenty of fresh ground pepper. That's it, folks. One main ingredient, a little salt, a little pepper, and olive oil. But I promise, if you try this salad, it will become an instant favorite.