Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fennel Salad, two ways

There is a stand at the farmers' market with these enormous bulbs of fennel. It is almost impossible to fit two in a produce bag. I smile with pride at the checkout, even though anyone else could be going home with the same prize.

If fennel is new to you, let me make an introduction. Fennel has the texture and crunch of celery, with a slight licorice smell and flavor. It is the white bulb that we cook with. (The green stalks are more fibrous and rough.) Some people like cooking with dried fennel seeds as well.

For a Memorial Day barbecue, I made a shaved fennel and orange salad, with little luscious chunks of avocado. I don't have a photo, so even though it was quite refreshing, we will move on to salads I can show you.

The first let's call "Kitchen Sink" Fennel Salad. It was a warm weekend afternoon, with a fridge full of produce, far too much for one person. In response, I made an unusual potato/fennel salad. Fingerling potatoes, fennel, radishes, and avocado. I was about to make a buttermilk dressing, when I remembered I had some crème fraîche. With a splash of rice vinegar and S&P, it was the perfect fix.

Homemade Crème Fraîche

1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk

Combine cream and buttermilk in a clean glass jar and seal. Set on a counter for 8-24 hours at room temperature, until thick. Refrigerate and use up to 10 days.

(Crème fraîche is a richer, sweeter, somewhat nuttier version of sour cream.)

Round two: Copying the deli salad. I got a great fennel salad with salami at the deli. It had shaved fennel, salami, shredded parmesan, olive oil, and cracked pepper. At home, I did not have any parmesan on hand. So, I used some comtè, which is a semi-hard cheese. And I added some chopped parsley. Toss and enjoy...

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