Another vegetable I've never been crazy about is fennel. It has a sort of licorice flavor that never appealed to me. However, I recently had my first fennel salad at a dinner we had at the farm. Lawrence, the owner of the farm, grows organic fennel. He is a very good cook, so I sampled the salad and really enjoyed that it was different, light and fresh tasting. His fennel salad was simply dressed, and, I honestly can't remember all that he put on it, but I definitely wanted to try my own version and I received a large fennel bulb in the organic vegetable bag I had just got from the farm. My version adds citrus and mint for an even more complex flavor profile. If you ever want to serve something other than your run-of-the-mill house salad, give this recipe a try. You may be surprised how much you like it. My ultra-picky friend, Debbie, was shocked how good it tasted when I force fed it to her. I'd say, thanks to me, Debbie's palette has become much more refined since she met me.
I served this dish at my Easter brunch because I wanted to make something light to go along with all the heavy casseroles and quiches. It was a hit. Did I mention it takes all of five minutes to prepare? Bonus!
Recipe (Serves 3-4 as a side dish)
¼ cup walnuts
1 medium-large fennel bulb, leaves and stems trimmed off Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Juice of 1 lemon 2 large oranges (any seedless variety will do, but avoid navel oranges as they are not very juicy) 1 small shallot, peeled and sliced very thin ¼ cup mint leaves roughly chopped 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 tsp lime zest
Place walnuts in a toaster oven or pan to gently toast them slightly, which will bring out the flavor of the nuts. Let cool. Coarsely chop nuts; set aside.
Slice the ends off the fennel. Slice fennel on a mandolin or with a very sharp knife, so that you have paper thin slices.
Trim all peel from oranges. Holding the orange over the bowl containing fennel, use sharp knife to cut sections from membrane and let them drop into bowl. Add walnuts and shallots.
Squeeze remaining orange juice into a small bowl. Next squeeze in the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Add chopped mint leaves and lime zest. Drizzle over the salad and toss gently to coat everything with the dressing.
Get creative! One way to get out of your routine, and simultaneously save money, is to use ingredients you already have in the house. When I started restricting my trips to the grocery store to once per week, not only did I save a bunch of cash, but was forced to think outside of the box in creating meals.