Tuesday, November 17, 2009

FENNEL, WATERCRESS, AND ORANGE SALAD WITH FIG DRESSING


During his "naps" Dash has been busy building what he calls "big cakes" by stacking clothes, toys and stuffed animals. These towering creations come up to his belly button. I can see him stacking things through the keyhole in his bedroom door.

Meanwhile, I've been busy building salads. Here's one that I tried several times last week. The flavors are intense but if you cut the fennel very thinly and finish the salad off with paper thin curls of parmesan, the texture can be quite delicate.


SALAD OF FENNEL, WATERCRESS, AND ORANGE WITH FIG DRESSING
Feeds 1 with some dressing left over.  

Once sliced, the fennel needs to be dressed immediately or it will turn brown. This salad is best done at the last minute. If you can't find fresh figs, rehyrate some dried figs with a little hot water and chop them finely OR puree them in the food processor for a creamier dressing.

3 figs
2 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar
squeeze of lemon
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt
pepper
1 navel orange
handful of watercress or arugula
1 fennel bulb
parmesan
12 or so parsley leaves

For the dressing. Cut figs in half, scoop out flesh with a teaspoon, and put it in a bowl. Add vinegar, lemon juice, and chopped shallot to fig flesh and mix well. Let sit for a few minutes. Slowly whisk in olive oil.

With a serrated knife, remove the peel from the orange. Cut out the orange sections from between the white membranes. Catch all the juice. Add half the juice to the salad dressing. Cut the fronds and a bit of the root bottom off of the fennel bulb. You can peel off the outer layer with a vegetable peeler if it looks tough or bruised. Very thinly slice about half of the fennel bulb by hand or with a mandoline. It looks nicer if you start slicing from the root bottom.

Combine fennel with watercress, orange sections, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with some of the fig salad dressing and toss the salad with your hands. It needs lots of dressing. Add parmesan to top of salad with vegetable peeler. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil and some crunchy salt.

Variations:  Add pine nuts, grapefruit or avocado. Or all of the above. Try balsamic vinegar instead of sherry vinegar (sweeter but still quite good). If you want the dressing to have a little more bite add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and some finely grated garlic.

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