Tag Archives: fennel

Fennel and Tomato Pasta Salad with Balsamic Dressing

12 Jul

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Last year I admitted to you all that I am no fan of pasta salads. The gloppy, the soggy, the mayonnaise-laden bowls of unappetizing sadness. Man, I’m really coming down hard on pasta salad, aren’t I? It’s almost as though I have forgotten how there are good pasta salads out there, but, sadly, not enough people seem to know about them. I am to change that, which is why I come to you today, armed with this utterly tasty and crisp, fresh and flavorful pasta salad.

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Found long ago on Epicurious, I’ve been making a version of this pasta salad for a few years now. Though I don’t follow the ingredient list to the letter, one element of the salad that remains unchanged is the dressing. With a perfect balance of flavors, this is a pasta salad dressing to keep on file for the duration of your life, and preferably the lives of your offspring as well. Never again shall you be steered towards the unsavory land of bland, droopy pasta salad dressings, for this dressing will make you demand a change for the better.

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It’s not dressing alone that makes this dish a stand out, however. Folded together with piles of fresh, crisp vegetables, the measure of pasta to not-pasta is spot on. The original recipe called for tomatoes and thinly sliced fennel to adorn the salad, but I love adding in whatever I have on hand to make the flavors and textures a bit different each time. Sometimes I throw in roughly chopped spinach leaves, thinly sliced ribs of red and yellow bell pepper, or a couple of cups of baby arugula. One thing I never leave out, however, is the fennel. It’s a must-have in this dish, adding a crunch and flavor that is impossible to replicate with anything else. Add this pasta salad to your summer repertoire, and I think you’ll agree.

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Last Year: Grilled Pineapple and Jalapeño Salsa and Lime Pecan Bars

Fennel and Tomato Pasta Salad with Balsamic Dressing

Adapted from Epicurious

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 medium garlic cloves, finely minced

3 cups diced, seeded plum tomatoes

2 cups thinly sliced fresh fennel (from about 1 large bulb)

1 cup chopped fresh basil

½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

6 green onions, white part only, chopped

½ cup coarsely chopped Kalamata olives

juice from 1 large lemon

salt and pepper to taste

1 pound pasta (penne or farfalle work well here)

optional: Instead of 3 cups of tomatoes, use 1 cup of tomatoes, 1 cup of sliced bell peppers, and 2 cups of chopped spinach leaves

also optional: ½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Whisk olive oil, tomato paste, vinegar, and garlic in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Combine tomatoes (if you’re using a combination of vegetables here, leave out the spinach leaves until you toss everything together with the pasta right before serving), fennel, basil, parsley, green onions, and olives in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to combine, and allow vegetable mixture to stand at least 20 minutes, or up to 2 hours, tossing occasionally.

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water. Drain, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, then toss and set aside to cool a bit. Toss every few minutes to keep pasta from sticking together, and to help it cool.

When cooled, transfer pasta to a large bowl. Squeeze over lemon juice, and toss to combine. Pour dressing over the pasta, and toss to combine. Add vegetable mixture, and toss once more. If using, toss in crumbled feta. Taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if desired.

Avocado, Fennel, and Egg Salad

22 Mar

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I have an almost phobic dislike of mayonnaise. It wasn’t always this way. I can remember not caring one way or another about mayonnaise when I was a kid, but, as an adult, there are few food items that make me want to turn around and run more than the sight of mayonnaise. I don’t care for the odor, I possess no tender feelings about the taste, and, up until a jar mistakenly showed up in our refrigerator last week, I don’t think I had so much as touched a jar of mayonnaise for the better part of a decade.

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So, what is a person to do when the topic of egg salad comes up? Ordinarily I would just excuse myself politely and then shudder off any lingering thoughts of the m-word, but since I have taken it upon myself to help those who may be in need of some post-Easter-egg-dying recipes, ignoring the problem really isn’t going to help anyone. Besides, shouldn’t we all just face our fears instead of—okay, no, so I am not even going to pretend that I am planning on making friends with mayonnaise. I’ve lived this long without it, and I think I am doing just fine.

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Luckily for me, and lucky for the state of egg salad, one doesn’t need mayonnaise in order to whip up an utterly dreamy batch of egg salad. Looking for another creamy sidekick to help bind some eggs together, it occurred to me that I could just use the food that I have been using for years to adorn my sandwiches in place of mayo: avocado. Super smooth, wonderfully rich, and delightfully mild, avocados make a perfect addition to egg salad. Because I have been on a huge fennel kick lately, it seemed only natural to add a handful of chopped fennel to the salad, and, sprinkled with a shot of fresh lemon juice, it was just the thing to make this salad sing. Piled on slices of hearty, multigrain bread or nestled on top of a hill of fresh greens, it’s an egg salad I think anybody would greet with open arms.

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Last Year: Polenta Toast with Roasted Asparagus and Fried Eggs

And, in case you missed the link above, here is an article I wrote for Portland Farmers Market last year about naturally dying Easter eggs (those beautiful eggs seen in the picture above were dyed using onion skins!).

Avocado, Fennel, and Egg Salad

1/3 cup chopped fresh fennel

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ medium avocado, peeled and diced into cubes

3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh fennel leaves

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

salt to taste

In a small bowl, combine chopped fennel and lemon juice. Toss to combine, then set aside while you prep other ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine avocado, eggs, chopped fennel leaves, pepper, and salt. Toss to combine. Add chopped fennel, along with any remaining lemon juice from the bowl, and toss everything together to combine. Taste for seasoning. You may want to add more salt and pepper.

Serve on toasted bread, on top of fresh greens, or, if you are my husband and you like to use a tortilla chip as a fork, eat it as a dip with tortilla chips.

Super Crunchy Fennel, Apple, and Celery Salad

6 Mar

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I am neck-deep in a rather large project right now (nothing exciting or surprising, unfortunately), but, as I sit at my desk and worry about work, my thoughts keep wandering back to this excellent salad I made last week. The salad had pretty much every element that I love a salad to have: great texture, lots of crunch, a subtle yet tasty dressing, and a nice dash of protein thrown in. Thinking about this salad keeps me from slowly losing my mind about my current work project, which is interesting. Who gets calmed down by a salad?

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Perhaps I should be talking instead about how this salad, while soothing to me, was also rather exciting. Not that calling a salad exciting is any less questionable than calling a salad soothing, but hear me out on this one. Every week or so, we’ve been experiencing a day of relative dryness, when the rain stops, the sun comes out, and everyone who has been trapped inside for months on end by the grayness and the rain comes outside and soaks up the brightness. Some of us, making the correlation between warmer weather and a change in available produce, rush out to find whatever is available to make a fresh, new meal. I love polenta and soup, but when the weather gets warmer, I want light, crisp, fresh meals, not warm, hearty meals that will warm me from the inside. The weather may not stay warmish for long, but I like to make the tiny bit of warmth as meaningful as possible.

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So, I had the idea for a great, crisp salad, loaded with fresh fennel and crisp apples. I had celery on hand, so I threw some in. The tops of the fennel were chopped up at the last minute and sprinkled about, and the result was nothing short of phenomenal. With a super light dressing of just lemon juice and olive oil, followed by a handful of raw pepitas, the salad came to life, earning a spot on my list of top five most favorite salads. Super crisp, wonderfully flavorful, and a reminder of warm days to come, it’s definitely going to make a few repeat appearances around here.

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Last Year: Quinoa, Arugula, and Roasted Beet Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing and Beet Greens and Chèvre Quiche–look at me, using every part of the beet.

Super Crunchy Fennel, Apple, and Celery Salad

One of the great things about this salad is the fact that the vegetables and fruit are sliced incredibly thin—we’re talking whip-out-the-mandoline-slicer thin—allowing each bite to cram in as much of each salad element as possible. As mentioned, I used a mandolin to slice everything as thin as possible, but you could also just use a super sharp knife and slice away.

2 cups fresh fennel, sliced super thin (about 1 large bulb), core removed, leaves set aside

2 cups super thin apple slices (about 2 small apples)

1 cup super thin celery slices (sliced across, not lengthwise, obviously)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil (using extra virgin olive oil will result in a much more punchy dressing, and using a lighter olive oil will give you a milder background of dressing)

big pinch of sea salt

big pinch of freshly ground black pepper

handful of fresh fennel leaves, roughly chopped

¼ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

In a large bowl, combine fennel, apple, and celery.

In a smaller bowl, add lemon juice, then slowly whisk in olive oil until the mixture is thick and emulsified (this shouldn’t take more than about 30 seconds). Whisk in salt and pepper, taste for more seasoning, and adjust as you see fit.

Pour dressing over fennel, apple, and celery. Toss to combine. Add chopped fennel leaves and pepitas, toss just a couple of times, then serve.

Serves 4 as a side salad, 2 as a main dish salad.

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