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Tag Archives: salad

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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Spicy Green Apple and Cabbage Salad with Cashews

17 Jan

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Salads have a bad reputation, and I understand why. Let’s be honest: salad is, to many people, the food of punishment. You ate too many slices of pie over the holidays, so now it’s time to face a few weeks of salad while you get the house back in order. Faced with limp pieces of lettuce, sad slices of random vegetables, and some terrible bottled salad dressing, I wouldn’t be excited about eating salad either, if that was the way I had to face it. Luckily, I don’t consider salad a last resort, and that is why I can look at it as an opportunity to really build something that is more enticing than disciplinary.

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My first order of business with a salad is always texture. I like lots of satisfying crunch, so I try to use a variety of sturdier greens whenever possible. Then I turn to a variation in flavors, aiming to end up with a nice mix of tart, sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter elements all thrown together. In this salad, super crisp napa cabbage gets combined with crunchy, tart Granny Smith apples and zesty fresh mint, then topped with savory toasted cashews. The third building block of a salad, the dressing—in this case, a super spicy chile and garlic dressing with lots of fresh lime juice—ties everything together, making each bite a fantastic mix of different flavors and sensations.

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Sometimes I think there is an art to building a salad. While it is certainly not the type of art that would warrant a solo gallery show or a major grant, you are at least awarded the opportunity to eat your work of art when you are done with it, and that, to me, is pretty much the best prize there is.

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Last Year: Chicken Biryani–one of my favorite dishes of all time–and Shallot and Herb Biscuits

Napa Cabbage and Green Apple Salad with Cashews

There are a lot of great textures going on in this salad, but I think you could get away with adding even more. Adding a cup or two of finely shredded or chopped purple cabbage would provide a lovely burst of color and flavor, and, if it’s in season, a handful of finely chopped fennel ribs would be borderline magical in here. Also, a note on the dressing: it is hot. I like a lot of spiciness, so I used an entire super hot chile pepper (ribs, seeds, and all), but, if you are not as tolerant of spiciness, you could certainly use just half of a chile, ribs and seeds removed.

Dressing:

1 serrano chile

1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce

¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

pinch of sea salt

pinch of sugar

Salad:

4 cups finely shredded napa cabbage

1 small Granny Smith apple, cored, then cut into thin matchsticks

¼ cup roughly torn mint leaves

1 cup toasted cashews

Using a microplane zester or a fine grater, very finely grate the chile pepper and garlic into a small bowl. Alternately, you could use a mortar and pestle to pound the chile and garlic together. Using the back of a spoon, mash the chile and garlic together until they form a bit of a paste. Add the fish sauce, vinegar, lime juice, salt, and sugar, then whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, apple slices, and mint. Pour over the dressing and toss to combine. Add the toasted cashews. Taste for seasoning. You may decide you want more salt (some fish sauces are much saltier than others, so personal judgment is in order here). If you do add more salt, sprinkle it on sparingly, then toss thoroughly to combine.

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

Watermelon, Cucumber, and Feta Salad with Mint

16 Jul

This might be the ultimate summer salad. I know, I know—how can someone say something so definitive about a salad when the salad in question contains only one single vegetable? In a season of garden abundance, can such a simple salad really be labeled as representative of the entire season? Well, yes.

That is, if the salad in question contains fresh, juicy chunks of watermelon, crisp slices of cucumber, cool hits of fresh mint, and tiny little squares of salty, flavorful feta cheese. On a hot day, I can’t think of anything better to eat, really. Well, aside from a nonstop conveyor belt delivery of popsicles, but if you’re looking for something with a bit more nutrition and heft, you might consider this salad.

The thing is, perfect as I think this salad is, while I was making it I kept on dreaming up other things I could do to it. I held back—mainly because I was going to be serving this salad to a crowd that contained children, and I didn’t want to completely repel anyone (though pairing watermelon with cheese certainly won me a few suspicious looks from the under-12 crowd)—but while writing down the recipe for this salad, my mind kept wandering over to thoughts of adding a diced jalapeno or serrano pepper, or maybe a light dusting of cayenne over each serving. I also think adding a bit of crumbled chèvre in lieu of the feta would be just lovely. If your garden is bursting with basil right now, a combination of basil and mint would pair nicely in here, or maybe forget the mint all together and just go with the basil. I know I just said this salad was perfect (and it really is, I swear), but I like to think that perfection doesn’t limit itself to one single incarnation. So try this salad as is, in all it’s glory, or maybe go in a slightly different direction and spice it up a bit. You can’t go wrong.

Last Year: Cherry Almond Strudel–so many flaky layers!

Watermelon, Cucumber, and Feta Salad with Mint Recipe

4 cups cubed watermelon

1 large cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, then sliced into half-moons

juice of ½ a lime

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, stacked on top of one another then cut into ribbons

4 ounces feta cheese, cut into tiny cubes

pinch of black pepper or cayenne pepper

Combine watermelon cubes and cucumber slices in a colander set over a large bowl. Refrigerate and allow watermelon to drain for at least 30 minutes. At this point, you can leave the draining watermelon and cucumber in the refrigerator for several hours if you want to prep the salad ahead of time.

Remove drained watermelon and cucumber to a serving bowl. (You can either reserve the drained watermelon juice for another purpose, or just go ahead and do what I did: drink it, because it is so very delicious.) Squeeze the lime juice over the mixture, then sprinkle on the mint, feta, and pepper. Toss gently with a large spoon. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 10 people.

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