Archive for October, 2012

October 8, 2012

Caramelized Fennel and Blood Orange Salad

I’m not going to lie, there was a time not-so-long-ago that I didn’t really get fennel.

Its shape intimidated me and its texture and strong aniseed flavor when raw were kind of turn off.

So I left the cream-colored bulbs alone for a while.

But my curiosity was stoked when Mr. F and I started watching old episodes of Australian Masterchef (you know, to assimilate into this cooking show-loving country.)

Turns out, every chef and judge that came through those kitchen doors freaking loves fennel. It’s the cool, cheffy vegetable that when used, the contestant would get mad props for such “clever cooking” or “understanding flavors.”

Mad. props. yo.

Inspired, I gave fennel another try.

Following my compulsion to roast nearly every vegetable under the sun, I gave it the old…well, roasting treatment. Obviously.

And that’s the story of how I discovered the real-life (non-reality tv) joys of fennel.

Each week when we’re at the farmer’s market, F lobbies for a fennel purchase and I’m always happy to oblige. I kind of love it that he loves this weird-looking vegetable as much as I do. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, somehow.

While my default way to cook fennel will probably always be roasting, I’ve found that pan roasting/caramelizing can be another excellent alternative.

This salad is a great combination of sweetness from the caramelized fennel, tart citrus from the blood oranges, saline bite from the black olives and peppery kick from the arugula. Perfect for your weekly fennel fix!

Caramelized Fennel & Blood Orange Salad
– 1 large fennel bulb, cut into thin slices
– olive oil
– salt
– 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
– 1 blood orange, segmented (juice reserved for the dressing)
– 4 large handfuls of arugula
– 1-2 tablespoons sliced black olives

To caramelize fennel, heat oil in a large skillet over a medium high heat. Add fennel and toss to coat in olive oil. Pour in the balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring only once or twice and adding a tablespoon or two of water if the pan looks dry. You want the fennel to get some nice color on it, so stirring it only occasionally is important.

Allow the fennel to cool and arrange your salad with the remaining ingredients. Toss with Blood Orange Vinaigrette (see below).

Blood Orange Vinaigrette
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon blood orange juice (from the pith of the segmented orange)
– 1 teaspoon honey
– salt and pepper

Place all ingredients together in a jar with a lid and shake well to combine. Serve over the salad and store remainder in the fridge for 2-3 days.

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October 4, 2012

Avocado Green Goddess Dressing (Without Mayo)

Springtime in Australia means occasional beach weather (and ice cream and smoothie weather), sunny mornings and soft sand runs.

Do you do this? Do you run in the sand at the back of the beach where it’s perpetually difficult to keep your body in balance, nearly impossible to maintain a running pace and, overall, unpleasant?

This is the soft sand run.

I do it sometimes. And I hate it the whole dang time.

But for the last lap or two I run close to the water where the air is fresher and the sand is firm and actually accommodating to running feet. These last laps feel so much better than the sweaty-faced ones that preceded them, that I nearly forget about the whole painful, gasping trudge through quicksand. (It totally felt like quicksand.)

All winter I’ve given myself a break from this soft sand business because I had an excuse to. It’s cold! And sometimes rainy! Getting barefoot on cold sand? Pshhh. Not happening.

But I can’t ignore the warm air and sun and the sandals and the iced coffee. I’m all in for this springtime steez.

And, hey, at least I’m not in a morning “boot camp.” I’m so not a boot camp girl.

I made a fresh herb, extra-green green goddess dressing in honor of springtime.

Since I’m not a big mayonnaise fan, I used a blend of avocado and Greek yogurt for my dressing base – a little lemon juice and tons of fresh herbs add great zing, flavor and color. I love it as a dip for raw vegetables and pretzels, as a dressing for salads, a spread for sandwiches or on top of grilled chicken or fish.

You can swap or add whatever green herbs you’re looking to get rid of – some chives would be great up in here, for example.

Even if it’s not springtime where you are, get into the spirit! It doesn’t even have to involve soft sand or sweating.

Blitz it all together.

Boom! (You can see my favorite mug in the background. That’s real life.)

Avocado Green Goddess Dressing

- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
– 1/2 a ripe avocado
– handful of parsley
– handful of basil
– handful of coriander
– 1 tablespoon of roughly chopped green onion
– 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
– salt & pepper

Combine ingredients in the a food processor or blender and process until herbs are finely chopped and all ingredients are combined into a smooth sauce. Store for 2-3 days in the fridge in an airtight container.

Green goddess dressing in action: lunch of kale, asparagus and sweet potato

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