Fennel

Image by Satrina0 via Flickr

I had a guest over the other night for dinner. I planned a dinner based on the fact that I thawed a duck. Now what? I never made duck before and I did not want to ruin it. so I did some research and came up with a plan. Then I thought what else? I went to the grocery store and selected ingredients from the produce and cheese section I don’t work with very much. Thought, what the heck I will see what happens.

The most successful dish (although the others were still good, just had some flaws) was the salad.

I bought shallots, garlic (gotta have them anyway), radicchio, red cabbage (nice color), endive, fennel (love fennel raw), and a spring mix of baby lettuces (never ended up using this for this recipe) and I had brussels sprouts. As I was buying these ingredients, I still was not sure what I was going to do, but salad came into mind.

I went by the cheese area and saw a very nice creamy blue cheese, sometimes blue cheese can come off too strong. I decided to give it a whirl.  When I tasted it, I knew it would go well with the salad without over powering it.

When I got home… It came to me. Why not roast these items to bring out the flavors, slightly wilt and then serve a warm salad. The rest is history. It was by far the favorite of the night and my guest happily took the extra home. The best part, even though it already had the dressing on it, it would not wilt any more in the fridge, like crisp salad does when you save it for the next day. That is a plus.

I have to apologize I did take a picture of this one, as I was too busy filling up on tastings before my guest arrived, I forgot to take a picture.

Even thought I bought and roasted the radicchio, I did not include it in the final product as it was just too bitter for my tastes. I would also caution on the prep of the fennel. I loved the flavor of it roasted, but be sure to trim off the tough bottoms as they make it difficult to eat. As you cut them to add to the salad, check the base to be sure it a little firm but soft – like a lightly sautéed piece of celery. If you bite into it and it is too hard, toss it or trim it more.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 head of red cabbage, sliced into 3rds

2 heads of endive, sliced in 1/2

8 brussels sprouts (or more), bottom trimmed, extra leaves removed and halved

1 Fennel bulb, bottom and top sliced off, leaves separated. Be sure to trim extra from the bottoms of the top few layers of leaves. Slice in half lengthwise

3 large shallots, peeled, bottom trimmed, and sliced in half

1 head of garlic, loose leaves removed and top sliced off (just enough to expose the bulbs)

2 TBS Olive Oil

1/2 TBS fresh shallots minced

1/2 TBS fresh garlic minced

2 – 3 TBS balsamic vinaigrette

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (more if not using bacon grease from the bacon)

6 slices of bacon, sliced into 1/2 in rectangles, or however you wish, just not too small (omit for vegan/vegetarian)

2 cups day old bread cut into cubes

1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, lightly salted

salt and pepper

2 TBS Cambzola Cheese (or a creamy blue cheese or goat cheese or Feta – just something with a little bite to it)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  1. lightly toss the cabbage, endive, brussels sprouts, fennel, halved shallots and head of garlic with olive old, a few sprinkles of salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet with sides (so any extra olive oil does not drip out onto the bottom of your oven causing your kitchen to become a smoke house). Arrange so the thicker ingredients are on the outside and the thinner ones are on the inside.
  2. Place the garlic bulb cut side up, and add additional olive oils into the cloves it festers as it roasts
  3. Roast for 15 – 40 minutes depending on item. Check often as some will finish before others, If they do, remove the done ones and put them into the bowl you used to toss them. Let the ot so hers continue to roast. They are done when they are 1/2 way wilted with still a bit of a firmness and/or there is a golden brown color on the bottom side of the item.
  4. when all are done, let the cool to the touch.
  5. Slice the larger items into strips. The shallots, just slice into 1/4s. As for the garlic, pop them out of their bulb, place a few in with the mix and leave about 5 cloves aside for the vinaigrette.
  1. Put the bowl aside. Go ahead and sample. I did.
  2. In a dry sauté pan, place the peanuts and sauté over med heat (watching closely as they will burn quickly) and roast for about 5 minutes. Stir and toss every minute or 30 seconds. As soon as you start to see the bottoms brown, take off the heat and into a bowl to cool. You may as – why am I dry roasting dry roasted peanuts? Warming peanuts (or any nut for that matter) brings out the nuttiness and makes them a little more fresh and flavorful for the day you are using them in a great salad. For this salad, this adds a great crunch and texture to the salad, that the roasted vegetables.
  3. When the peanuts are cool, rough chop with a knife or in a food processor/blender on pulse for a few times. You still want them chunky, not powder.
  4. Get the bacon a cooking. Over med heat, put the bacon into a sauté pan. Saute until the bacon is crisp. Spoon out the bacon and let drain on a paper towel. (reserve the fat and pan)
  5. In the same pan you cooked the bacon (see saving you dirtying another dish), drain all but about 1+ TBS of the bacon fat or if not using bacon, in a sauté pan add 1 TBS oil of your choice. Heat over med-hit heat and toss in the bread cubes, and toss until lightly browned. Watch them closely once they turn they turn fast.
  6. remove from the heat and put into a container until ready to serve.
  7. Building the vinaigrette: In a bowl, add in the minced fresh shallots, minced fresh garlic, the reserved roasted garlic cloves, the cheese, balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper. Using a whisk, mash and mix all together (I enjoyed the rustic of the hand/whisk mashed ingredients, but no reason you can’t throw all into a blender/food processor and give it a whirl – except the bacon). Once the cheese and roasted garlic is broken up, add in 1.5 TBS of the bacon. Whisk well. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. The remaining bacon will be used as topping.
  8. Let sit for about 5 – 10 minutes. Whisk again and taste. Adjust again if needed, adding additional vinegar, cheese or olive oil.

Now you are ready to assemble the salad:

In a sauté pan ( again, you can re-use the same pan you toasted the bread in as you get the extra bits), add in the roasted vegetables and vinaigrette and toss together until just warmed through (about 2 – 3 minutes). Plate in bowls or a nice plate and top with the roasted peanuts, bacon (if using) and croutons.

ENJOY!

Options:

  • If you like bitter ( I gave up bitter for the new year 🙂 ) – go ahead and add in the radicchio
  • Use any other cabbage / lettuce you like
  • Take a platter, cover with the spring mix I did not use (Yet! I will use it), then in the center line the roasted vegetables dressing mix
  • Use seared tofu instead of the croutons/bacon
  • Crumble additional cheese on top
  • Add caramelized onions
  • Mix with Micro greens to liven it up
  • Add sautéed spinach
  • Omit what you can’t find or don’t like
  • why not add in roasted potatoes for a full meal
  • Why not add in beans that you like to make it a full meal
  • Nothing like topping anything with med-rare seared red steak (or if you are watching that, chicken) seasoned with salt and pepper and a splash of lime
  • Don’t like peanuts – add any nut you like
  • Can’t find good shallots, use red onions
  • No fennel – celery works just as well
  • Add Leeks – I love them

These are just a few that come to mind. This is a starting point and I will probably mix it up depending what I find. However, I do have to say, I LOVED THE VINAIGRETTE. I was finding anything – extra bread, using the roasted veggies, a spoon just as an excuse to taste it!

About culinaryease

I am a single mother who loves cooking and providing tips, techniques, to get everyone out of the takeout lane and into the kitchen.

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