Friday, February 15, 2008

more than just an afterthought

This is my entry for Waiter, There's Something In My... Salad.

I am a firm believer in good salad.

A good salad is a salad worth eating in its own right. A good salad is not an afterthought. It is not something you serve just for the sake of having vegetables on the table. And it is definitely not what you (don't) eat to make up for what you ate. If you're seeking absolution for sins of butter and cream, you're better off confessing to your cardiologist and doing penance by running for an hour on the treadmill. Trying to atone for your shortcomings with iceberg lettuce and low-fat dressing is a sorry way to treat both your tastebuds and your arteries.*

That said, a good salad is just the thing to refresh a tired appetite after too much rich food. After all the buttercream and crème fraîche of Thursday, I decided that Friday dinner with Meg and Deby called for something light and simple. The following salad makes use of two of my favorite items of winter produce: fennel and blood oranges. It might sound like an odd pairing, but the sweet, licorice-y crunch of fennel serves as a lovely counterpoint for juicy orange segments and salty curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano. It also looks deliciously striking.

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad

Inspired by a fennel salad from Orangette.

(Serves one as a light lunch.)

Take a small fennel bulb and slice it as thinly as you can manage. This is probably easiest done with a mandoline or a food processor, though doing it by hand will give your knife skills a workout. Peel a blood orange, and remove the membrane from each segment.

Put the fennel in a bowl with the blood orange segments. Dress with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Shave thin curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top. Dust with freshly ground black pepper. Grab a fork. Mix everything together. Dig in.

Note: This looks more elegant as a layered salad on a plate, but tastes better when you mix everything up in a bowl. I'll let you decide which approach you prefer.

*Iceberg lettuce serves two minor culinary purposes: one, as a conveyance for the filling of sang choi bao, and two, as a fixing for tacos. Its primary purpose is to act as feed for rabbits.

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