My mother-in-law is pretty amazing (not everyone can say that!). So you’ll understand why I was both honored and a bit nervous when she asked me to be a guest blogger. I’m not even going to attempt to fill Penny’s shoes in this post! But she does inspire and encourage me to embrace my love of cooking and culinary experiments. I hope this recipe celebrates her and encourages some of you to dare to try something new! For those of you already well on your way, salut!
The warm weather brings a wealth of opportunities in our kitchen! Grilled peppers, breads, and kabobs… refreshing salads, sauces, and salsas made with only the freshest produce are just some of my personal faves. Each year, I tend to find a few new ingredients on which to experiment. This year, several recent encounters with fennel have me intrigued! Last Winter we experienced fennel in beef short ribs, this Spring in a roasted pork tenderloin, and just a few weeks ago atop a fresh arugula salad with roasted tomatoes and parmesan at Nova in Asheville, NC.
When a Cook’s Illustrated issue surfaced featuring 3 different chopped salad recipes, one of which featured fennel, it ony took me about half of a second to lock this recipe into on our weekly dinner menu. The ingredients may seem unusual at first, but it only takes one bite to discover how wonderful they are together!
We also had fun with melted cheese as a savory side. Melted cheese you ask? Yes! Shred up some cheddar or parmesan and make little shredded piles on a silpat-lined baking sheet. Pop it in the oven at 375, and just keep an eye on it. The cheese will spread out and start bubbling. When it’s browned and hardened just a tiny bit, take it out and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Peel the crisps off the silpat, and you have some custom, homemade cheddar crisps! YUM!
The recipe posted below is just as it appears in Cook’s Illustrated (July/August 2009 issue). A few personal cook’s notes follow the recipe.
Fennel and Apple Chopped Salad
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch dice (about 1 1/4 cups)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 medium fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into a 1/4 inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 Braeburn, Jonagold, or Red Delicious applies, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 2 cups)
1/2 small red onion, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 romaine heart, cut tino 1/2 inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
ground black pepper
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese (about 1 cup)
Combine cucumber and 1/2 teaspoon salt in colander set over bowl. Let stand 15 minutes.
Whisk oil and vinegar together in large bowl. Add drained cucumber, fennel, apples, onion, and tarragon; toss and let stand at room temperature to blend flavors, 5 minutes.
Add romaine and walnuts; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Divide salad among plates; top each with some goat cheese and serve.
Recommendations (a.k.a. Personal Notes):
- While the recipe does not call to cook any of the ingredients, I prefer to soften the fennel by sauteing in a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper until tender. If you choose to do the same, allow the fennel to come back down to room temp before mixing into the salad.
- I do not remove the seeds from the cucumber. I don’t think it’s necessary!
- Some people do not care for walnuts. I think this recipe would work nicely with pistachios, pecans, or cashews.