Simple Salad

Any salad (or dish) that you can throw together quickly is great. And when it’s with some ingredients you love it’s even better. Fennel and hearts of palm are two veggies (? — are they both considered that) I could eat every day.

A salad I recently made because of the warm temps had two of those in there — fennel, hearts of palm and then some oranges.

IMG_8554

Use the ratio of whatever you’d like on all of them. Slice them. Toss them with a little of olive oil, S&P and you’re good to go. Delicious!

IMG_8555

Slow-Roasted Char with Fennel Salad

The meat of my Christmas Eve dinner this year was a tempting recipe from Bon Appetit.  A delicious fish with one of my favorites flavors; Roasted Char with Fennel Salad.

Ingredients

½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced on a mandoline, divided
1¼ pounds arctic char or salmon fillet (we used salmon)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon peel (didn’t get that fancy, I threw some dried lemon zest in there)
½ cup dill fronds

IMG_4690[1]

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°. Bring vinegar, sugar, caraway seeds, 2 tsp. salt, and ⅓ cup water in a small saucepan to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and add garlic. Let sit until garlic is slightly softened, 10–15 minutes.
Add half of fennel and toss to coat. Let sit until fennel softens slightly and tastes pickled, 8–10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place char in a 2- or 3-qt. baking dish and coat with 1 Tbsp. oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until flesh easily flakes apart and a paring knife inserted into fish meets no resistance, 15–18 minutes.
Drain fennel mixture; discard liquid. Toss in a small bowl with lemon juice, preserved lemon, remaining 3 Tbsp. oil, and remaining fennel; season with salt and pepper. Mix in dill.
Serve char topped with fennel salad.

Do Ahead: Garlic and fennel can be pickled 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

IMG_4696[1]

Melt…in…your…mouth.  That explains it all.  There was hardly any left.  The combo of flavors in the fennel, and the balance of soft and crunchy in the fennel from how it was prepped so was good.  I even forgot to mix in the dill, which would have made it even better.  I want more!

Sashimi-me

Hot days mean cool dinners.  When Bon Appetit arrives at my door it means reading the index of recipes first to see what needs to be made!  The recent issue has so much good stuff it was/is hard to pick.  But with the recent temps of 90+, little cooking is ideal.  So the recipe of Snapper Sashimi with Seaweed and Fennel could not be turned down (the hardest part, honestly, was going to the grocery store after sitting at the pool for awhile).

Ingredients (oh the fun…)

-2 teaspoons dried cut wakame seaweed (I went to Whole Foods.  You can either buy a bag of these things for about $8. Or, after talking to one of the guys who works there, we decided that I could try using one of the little seaweed snack pieces, that look like green stained glass, that cost $1.99 cost the entire box…hmmm…
-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 teaspoon finely grated peeled horseradish (I can’t eat the stuff so can’t tell you what it tastes like with this, but I am sure it add tons of great taste)
-1 teaspoon soy sauce
-1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
-Small pinch of sugar
-Kosher salt
-¼ small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced on a mandoline (just random, there were no regular size fennel bulbs, just these tiny guys, maybe the size of 2 or 3 grape tomatoes, pretty cute, then they have tons or fronds. I saved those, heck yeah!)
-2 small radishes, trimmed, very thinly sliced on a mandoline
-½ pound skinless, boneless red snapper fillet, sliced ¼ inch thick (Let’s talk about Whole Foods and fish. The recipe also says “The type of fish you use is less important than its quality. Black bass, striped bass, and fluke all translate well.” They didn’t have any of those on a Friday evening. It’s ‘rush hour’ — I didn’t know what to do, not did the guy working. He deduced that I could try Cobia. I just still just a bit taken aback that Whole Foods didn’t have any of the prime seafood it called for)
-½ cup chervil leaves (Another problem, Whole Foods had no chevril leaves, ok, I live walking distance from it and did not want to drive to get anything. The produce guy said the best substitute would be flat leaf parsley)
-1 teaspoon fennel pollen (optional)
-Flaky sea salt

IMG_3546Getting all this together was pretty easily, definitely fun.

Directions:

-Soak wakame in 1 Tbsp. cold water in a small bowl to rehydrate, 5–8 minutes; drain.  Ok, it was sort of slimy afterwards — very cool.

IMG_3549(Don’t forget to take those radishes and that fennel to the mandoline).

IMG_3550

IMG_3553

Combine lime juice, oil, horseradish, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and sugar in a medium bowl; season with kosher salt. Add fennel, radishes, and seaweed to dressing; toss to combine.

IMG_3555
Arrange snapper (or fish at hand) on a platter. Spoon dressing and vegetables over and top with chervil and fennel pollen, if using; season with sea salt. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

IMG_3561

WOW!  The Asian-flair of flavors all came together to hit the palate and gave an amazing taste.  I also happened to serve this on a platter I bought in Japan so of course it made it taste even better!  So good.  Will definitely try it with bass, too.

Fennel & (Raw) Asparagus Salad

Was flipping through Bon Appetit the other day and came across another recipe I needed to try.  It had two of my favorite veggies in it — Fennel and Asparagus Salad.  In the whole piece in the magazine, it is part of a pork shoulder cutlet recipe (I just didn’t feel like making the whole think, I had already had salmon ready to go).

1 small fennel bulb, cored, thinly sliced, plus 2 tablespoons fennel fronds
6 asparagus spears, shaved lengthwise into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
2 tablespoons olive oil

IMG_2892For the asparagus, it is never too easy to shave them.  I’ve had this one veggie peeler that is supposed to be good.  Have you ever seen or used one of these?  I always try to give it another shot.  It scrapes, cuts and just does not make anything easy.

IMG_2898

IMG_2899

Finally just found my good old fashioned carrot peeler.  That made it much easier.

IMG_2902

IMG_2905

Combine fennel, fennel fronds, asparagus, onion, and parsley in a medium bowl. Toss with lemon juice and olive oil; season with kosher salt and pepper.

IMG_2910

This salad was so refreshing and had a great crunch to it.  Totally worth making!

Rice Salad with Pecans, Fennel, and Herbs

Was flipping through a (sort of) recent Bon Appetit issue the other day (January 2015) and came across a recipe that looked tempting.  With the ‘warm’ weather — I’m talking upper 50s and sunny after 8″ of snow last week — it was just far too appealing.  It’s essentially a no-cook recipe, which was a bit off for a January recipe.

Red Rice Salad with Pecans, Fennel, and Herbs

1 cup red rice (I used the priceless Trader Joe’s microwave rice)
1 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
2/3 cup pecans, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro leaves and finely chopped tender stems
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Toasted pistachio oil or almond oil (for serving; optional)

IMG_2488[1]

Directions

Cook rice according to package directions. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet; let cool.

Meanwhile, toss fennel and onion with 2 tablespoons lime juice in a large bowl and let sit, tossing occasionally, until lime juice is almost entirely absorbed, 10-15 minutes.
So at this point, since it had to be thinly sliced, it was time to pull out the V-slicer/mandolin.  Had such a great time!

IMG_2511[1]IMG_2512[1]Coarsely chop 1/3 cup pecans; finely chop remaining nuts. Laziness here, bought them that way — and, a heck of a lot cheaper for some reason.  Cook in olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low until golden brown, 5-10 minutes. Let cool.

Add rice and pecans to fennel mixture along with remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice and toss to combine. Gently fold in cilantro; season with salt and pepper. Serve drizzled with pistachio oil, if desired.

*Do ahead: Rice salad (without cilantro) can be chilled up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

This salad was mouthwatering.  I did not expect it to be this good.  Wow.  It could also easily be made with quinoa and/or another nuts.  Will be a perfect summer recipe.  Wow, delicious.

IMG_2507[1]

What Spices Up Your Life?

As I continue to play in the kitchen, as I read cooking magazines, when I hit the occasional restaurant, when I walk through the grocery store (I’m one of the people who loves that — I have friends who dread it), I think about the flavors I love the most.  I often think about the spices I could not do without.

I have a top two, a solid third, and then two more that cater to the baking side (more sweet than savory).

*I recently took a Smartphone photography class to sharpen my food photo skills since I take all my blog pictures via my iPhone.  So, this was also a great way to start working on these and play with my new olloclip.  If you’re in the DC-area, check out Washington Art Works & Washington School of Photography and Adam S. Lowe‘s Smartphone class — I give them huge props (and all their other classes) — they have food stuff, too — oh, I just found out they have wine tastings, as well.

Anyway, my top spices:

1.  Cumin — give me cumin or give me death.  You can use it in so much stuff, and it’s very convenient that I love (tex)mex food.  Maybe there’s a correlation here…hmmm.

IMG_2371

2.  Coriander (dried cilantro) — will ALWAYS take the fresh stuff.  Where’s the guac when you have the fresh stuff?  I can be caught using this in near everything.

IMG_2375

3. Fennel (seed)!  What’s funny here is I can’t stand black licorice (it’s not a like of many).  Though they aren’t super close to the same, that’s always what I think of when I know that I love this stuff.  So, give me fennel, the spice or fresh stuff and I am in heaven!

IMG_23794.  As we move down to the lower half of the top five, the next two are sort of tied, so I’m going to put them in alphabetical order for safety sake.  So, cinnamon, bring it on!  You’re in my baked goods, and sometimes ‘cooked’ ones.

IMG_23825.  Last but not least, nutmeg.  From baked goods to sprinkling it on fruit.  Has some great health benefits, too.  I definitely won’t say no.

IMG_2384

So, what spices up your life?  What are your favorite spices?  Are they more savory or sweet?  Let everybody know.

Pasta Sauce on a Whim

Last Saturday was just cold, snowy and blah here in DC and all I wanted was some great pasta sauce.  Why buy the stuff?  Decided to grab a bunch of stuff and see what I could put together based on the rough research I did on cooking the stuff.  Came up with the following ingredients (don’t have exact measurements on any of these):

-canned tomatoes
-onions
-olives
-garlic
-spices
-bay leaves
-fennel seed (almost forgot that one)
-red wine
-S&P
-olive oil

IMG_2237[1]IMG_2240[1]Threw them all in a pot and brought them to a boil then simmered them over medium heat for about 30+ minutes.

IMG_2314[1]Final result was a delicious, chunky sauce with tons of flavor.

IMG_2264[1]Served it over spaghetti squash with some seared shrimp.

IMG_2266[1]

Fennel and Carrot Soup

Was in the soup mood last night and remember tearing a new recipe out of the recent issue of Bon Appetit.  Was the perfect time to make it — Fennel and Carrot Soup.  I love fennel and enjoy carrots when they are cooked (or covered in hummus).  For some reason I just cannot acquire a taste for them when they are just plain and simple, perfectly orange and raw.  We all have our things.

Anyway, when I saw the recipe I knew I’d have to make a couple changes/eliminations, which is common in my world since I’m the lactard, but it would be simple.

IMG_1514[1]Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (I used some olive oil here because of my dairy issue)
  • 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced (I used one+)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 1 small Yukon Gold potato, peeled, halved (I used a Russet)
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (Trader Joe’s boxes are perfect for this)
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped roasted chestnuts from a jar (I skipped these because I couldn’t find them anywhere)
  • ¼ cup crème fraîche (skipped this step)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (ditto on the above)

Directions:

Heat 4 Tbsp. butter (or some oil) in a large heavy pot over medium. Add fennel, onion, carrots, potato, thyme, and bay leaf; season with salt and pepper.

IMG_1519[1]

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if needed, until vegetables are soft but not browned and have released their moisture, 45–60 minutes (this will give them deep flavor).  ***Right here I was staring at these delicious looking veggies and questioned sanity — WHY was there no garlic in here?!?!  I quickly added some.

IMG_1521[1]

Add broth, bring to a boil, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer until potato is falling apart, 8–10 minutes. Let cool slightly. Remove herbs.
IMG_1524[1]
Working in batches, purée in a blender until smooth. (Blender???  Immersion blender!!)  Strain into a clean pot; season with salt and pepper.
IMG_1530[1]
IMG_1531[1]
IMG_1536[1]
(Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over medium. Add chestnuts and cook, stirring often, until butter is browned and chestnuts are toasted, about 4 minutes.
Mix crème fraîche and maple syrup in a small bowl. Serve soup topped with maple crème fraîche and chestnuts.
Do Ahead: Soup can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.)
I can’t speak for the last few steps but I’m sure they add quite a bit.  But even without them, this soup is AMAZING!  Flavor, flavor, flavor!  Easy to make, great on its own or with some seafood or meat.  I enjoyed it with some chicken.  I would highly recommend it.  Can likely be frozen, as well.

Honey See, Honeydew

It’s summer, which means it’s melon time!  Bon Appetit came a couple weeks ago and I was flipping through it, of course, and there was a recipe with honeydew.  I haven’t seen many recipes with honeydew in them.  The most I’ve ever done with it is either (1) cut and eat or (2) the aforementioned topped with prosciutto.  So, this recipe was game!  This delectable food-bearing treat I keep mentioning is Shaved Honeydew, Fennel, and Olive Salad.  The last two key ingredient are some of my favorite foods!  It’s a no-cook (in the sense of no heat) recipe which is great this time of year.  And, gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ½ pounds honeydew melon, rind and seeds removed, shaved on a mandoline 
  • ½ fennel bulb, shaved on a mandoline, plus 2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fennel fronds
  • ¼ cup brined green olives, 
such as Castelvetrano, pitted, 
very coarsely chopped

honeydew11

Directions

Zest the orange (and then make sure you don’t add this to the dressing!!!).  I carefully took it out of the bowl after I more carefully read the directions.  Why should you read ahead, right?

honeydew10

 

honeydew9

Whisk orange juice, lemon juice, and 
2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

honeydew8

Shave the honeydew…hmmm….what’s the best way to take the skin off the melon?  Carrot peeler, not that great, knife ended up being the best bet.  Then I quartered the melon and it took awhile.

honeydew6

honeydew7

honeydew5

Next, you do the same thing to the fennel.  Much easier to prep/cut!

honeydew4

honeydew3

Add melon, shaved fennel, 
and olives to vinaigrette and toss to coat. Top salad with orange zest and fennel fronds, drizzle with more oil, and season with salt and pepper.

honeydew2

Final product (VERY green!)

honeydew1It was very light and refreshing, though it seems like it was missing something and I can’t tell if it was lemon juice or S&P.  I did add more S&P at the table so don’t know if it was the lemon.  But overall, very nice.  Perfect for summer!  Was served with scallops and some delicious grains.  Would highly recommend it.