Yesterday was uncharacteristically warm, topping off at over 60 degrees with tons of sunshine and practically no wind. Given that D.C. has been in the 20s and 30s since Inauguration weekend, this random burst of warmth was quite welcome. I wore a dress for the first time in ages and gave my wool coat a break as I opted for a vest.
Don’t get me wrong; I love cold weather. But cold winter days have a tendency to put me in a rut, both wardrobe-wise and foodwise. Not only do I pile on layer upon layer of sweaters and coats, but I also feel like I need hearty, filling food to cope with the season. The problem is that most comfort food consists of rich stews, roasted chickens, and lentil- or bean-filled chili or soup. Needless to say, one gets really sick of eating the “brown” food group most of the time, and yesterday’s weather was the perfect reason to break this habit.
I tried to stick to winter-friendly ingredients–things that you can find in plentitude during the cold season. The crunchy kale pairs well with the bold flavor of blood oranges and the sometimes sharp bites of fennel. Plus, combining blood orange juice with sherry vinaigrette produces a dressing with the perfect amount of tang. And–personal health plug–this salad is packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Total win.
So here’s to incorporating color into your winter menu. Happy eating.
** Side note: I’ll post the promised Smitten Kitchen side dish on Friday. I just thought the weather called for a salad post!
Continuing on my Spanish food kick, the second dish from dinner the other night (and hands down my favorite part of the meal) was a salad that I first had during Sam’s and my trip to Jaleo. Sam had told me about it before we went and insisted that we order the dish. As previously mentioned, I love fennel in pretty much any form. Hand me a bulb and I will eat it raw. This salad, followed closely by some delicious roasted onions, were my favorite tapas/dishes of the night (and that’s a difficult title to win at Jaleo).
The flavors in this salad are fantastic. The heartiness of the walnut and the apple were the perfect tint of winter which, combined with the fennel and chives that reminded me of early spring, made for the perfect “transition salad” between seasons. Ideally, you should probably slice your fennel and perhaps your apple on a mandolin. Being a poor law student, I don’t have one of those. That being said, slicing both really thinly with an extremely sharp knife did the trick for me. This also kept pretty well in the fridge and made for a great side salad at lunch the next day. Also, be sure to slice your apple last, as that will preserve it’s color.
On another note: my friend Sam is off to Italy for four months of culinary school and an internship. If you’d like to keep up with travels and culinary adventures, be sure to check out her blog at travelingwithmymouthfull.wordpress.com. Happy eating!
I’ve come to the conclusion that fennel is one of the most under-appreciated vegetables. Raw, it tastes like slightly nutty licorice. I love its crunchy texture, and it tastes great eating as pinzimonio–the Italian tradition of dipping fresh vegetables into olive oil, vinegar, and, sometimes, a little seasoning. That being said, it’s great cooked as well. The licorice flavor mellows out and, when baked, the bulb becomes so tender that it literally melts in your mouth.
When buying fennel, make sure you look for clean, white bulbs with no bruising and dark fronds that have not wilted. When cooking, discard the green stems and the fronds. You can save the fronds for a salad or insert both stems and fronds into the cavity of a roast chicken for a different flavor (my mom is particular fond of using them this way). Today’s side dish takes mere minutes to put together, and you can prep the rest of your meal while it bakes. The recipe is also easy to halve if you are cooking for fewer people.
I also recommend giving David Rocco’s website a look. He has some fantastic recipes that they are very authentic and pretty simple!