Fennel Two Ways: Cold Salad and Hot Gratin

I’m a huge fan of fennel. In the summertime, I’ll make cold fennel salads, and in the winter, I’ll do gratins. I make these slightly differently every time, but here are the basics:

Fennel Salad

For 4-6 people
2 fennel bulbs (3 if they are small)
1 stalk of celery
mint (or fresh oregano)
1 navel orange
olive oil
salt and pepper
optional: mild, black mediterranean olives

Wash the fennel bulbs and remove the very tops so you just have the bulb. Remove the outer layer if it seems a little woody. Halve them and cut out the dense core, and then halve them again (so you have quarters). Using a mandoline at its thinnest setting, slice up the fennel (watch those fingers!) and place in a large salad bowl.

Peel the navel orange, separate the segments and slice them into half inch pieces. Add to bowl. (Note, when I first had this in Italy, it was served with amazing blood oranges, but I haven’t been able to get quality blood oranges where I live.)

Thinly slice up the celery and add to the bowl (the older photo used in this post had thicker slices of celery, but I’ve found myself liking a thinner cut).

Finely chop up a handful of mint, or fresh oregano.

Drizzle a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper and mix up. The Italians also sometimes add cured black olives to this, sort of like a kalamata, but not quite as strong.

Fennel Gratin

For 4 to 6
3 or 4 fennel bulbs
Parmesan cheese
2 slices of farm bread for breadcrumbs
Unsalted butter

Get some salted water boiling in a large pot and butter a baking dish.

Wash the fennel bulbs and remove the very tops so you just have the bulb. Save the green fronds if you have them. Remove the outer layer of the bulb if it seems a little woody. Halve them and cut out the dense core. Lay them flat and slice into quarter inch slices.  Boil in the salted water for 5 minutes, drain, and then add to the baking dish.

Mix in about a half cup of grated parmesan cheese, a pinch of black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Chop up some of the fine green fennel fronds and mix in.

For bread crumbs, I never buy store breadcrumbs. I just toast a couple of slices of farm bread until lightly brown, and then chop it up pretty finely. I prefer chopping to a food processor because I like having different (and larger) sizes. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top.

Add a bit more grated cheese to the top, and dot with unsalted butter.

Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes.

Lime and Manchego Corn Salad


This summer my friend Veronica made a delicious corn salad one evening for a family bbq, and I’ve been riffing off of it ever since.

5 or 6 ears of corn, cooked and kernels removed
juice of 4 or 5 limes
large handful of cherry peppers, halved
half of a small red onion, finely diced
Half a serrano pepper (or a jalapeno), seeds removed and minced
handful of cilantro, chopped
manchego cheese to taste

First, I juice the limes and chop the red onion, and macerate the onion in the lime juice while working on the rest of the salad. You want a fair amount of lime juice so if your limes are dry, use more of them. For the corn, if you have the ability to cook them over a grill, blackening them in their husks, that is preferred. However, if that isn’t possible, you can also husk them and boil them for 5 minutes. Cut the kernels off the cob and put in your bowl. Halve the tomatoes, chop the cilantro, mince the hot pepper (if fresh peppers are hard to come by, use hot red pepper flakes), and stir it all into the bowl, adding the lime and red onion.

Add a pinch of salt and grate manchego cheese on top to taste. Stir about a half cup of grated manchego in, and keep on going until you have the taste you like.

Personally, I think this salad is nice at room temperature or even a bit chilled, so will often cover with wrap and put in the fridge until 30 minutes before serving.


Summer Three Bean Salad


When picnic season rolls around, this is always my most requested dish. I’ve had a number of requests to update the recipe here, so with no further ado:

The Basics:
1 can kidney beans, rinsed (1)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
half a red onion, finely diced
1 or 2 ears of corn, niblets cut off the cob (2)
large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
large bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
juice from 6 or 7 limes
1/2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper (3)

4 or 5 tomatillos, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed and minced
handful of spring onions, diced
1 yellow or orange pepper, chopped (for more color)

The instructions are as simple as “combine it all together”, but it is always better if you make it a couple hours ahead of time so that the lime juice permeates more. A few additional notes:

1. I always rinse canned beans really well under cold water, and drain them well

2. for the corn, you can boil the corn for 4 or 5 minutes, but I usually microwave them for no more than 2 minutes in the husk. Then I slice the niblets off with a chef’s knife and then break up the niblets by loosely running the corn through my fingers

3. add salt to taste, but the beans will want a fair amount of salt. If you are using fine table salt, start with about 1/4 tsp, and add to taste. If kosher salt, start with about double that.

Chickpea and parsley salad with lemon-shallot dressing

Ah to be on vacation and have time to food blog again!  I tend to eat a lot of salad for lunch in the summer time.  I love tabouli but on its own, tabouli would leave me hungry.  So I created this salad in the same vein (tons of parsley!) but going for a heartier meal. It uses my “go to” salad dressing, of which I never tire.

Salad Ingredients
1 large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
a handful of halved cherry tomatoes or sliced larger tomatoes
half a cucumber, halved and sliced
1 can of chickpeas, thoroughly washed
1 green pepper, sliced into thin, bite-sized pieces
large handful or arugula

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl, and then add the dressing. Taste for salt — the chickpeas might want a bit more salt than a typical green salad.  One twist is to make the dressing first and pour over the chickpeas, letting them marinate before you add the other vegetables.

Lemon-Shallot Dressing
1 lemon
dash of red or white wine vinegar (not balsamic)
1 shallot (minced) or part of a red onion (finely chopped)
mustard (grey poupon or grain mustard)
olive oil
salt and pepper

To make the dressing, first squeeze the juice of a lemon into a bowl or mug (remove any seeds). Add a dash of vinegar (about a teaspoon). Mince up a shallot (or the red onion) and add to the liquid and let sit for 10 minutes or so.

With a fork, stir in a little olive oil (start with about a teaspoon).
Whisk in a little mustard to taste (start with about 1/8 of a teaspoon).
Adjust oil, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.


Summer Grilling: Crispy Arugula Salad and London Broil

The heat is a-rising here on the East Coast, and when it gets hot, my meals tend to get simpler and simpler. I was a bachelor tonight and made a classic (for me) summer meal, pairing a marinated, grilled london broil with a crispy arugula salad. Lisl always teases me that I never eat starch when she’s not around (she grew up in a household which didn’t count dinner as real unless there was a potato on the plate), and I guess I can’t argue with the evidence clearly in her favor. She is a lawyer after all.

The london broil marinade was a bit east-meets-west, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and the salad was simple, fresh and delicious.

Crispy Arugula Salad
1 bunch of fresh, fairly mature arugula (baby arugula is great, but less peppery)
green pepper
green pepper
fresh white button mushrooms
fresh thyme

lemon juice
champagne vinegar
olive oil
dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Make sure you wash and dry your arugula. Rip the largest leaves in half so the diner does not need a knife to eat the salad, and go with whatever ratios you like for the other ingredients. My salad had enough for two people: half a green pepper, 3 radishes, and 5 button mushrooms.

For the dressing, I used half a lemon, an equal amount of vinegar, a dab of mustard (like an eighth of a teaspoon), a pinch of salt and pepper, and olive oil to taste.

Addition: if you have time to mince up a shallot and let it sit in the lemon juice and vinegar for a few minutes before finishing the dressing, I highly recommend it.

London Broil

4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp of chopped fresh rosemary and winter savory
salt and pepper
soy sauce

I like to tenderize my london broil (usually a cut of Round) — which entails just putting the meat between two pieces of plastic wrap and giving it a few good bangs with a heavy pot.

For the marinade, wash and dry several sprigs of winter savory (use fresh oregano or thyme if you don’t have savory — I’m now addicted to it and plant it every year) and one big sprig of rosemary, and finely chop the herbs. Then smash the garlic cloves, remove the skin and mince. On both sides of the london broil, spread the herbs, a dusting of cumin, a drizzle of soy sauce, a healthy pinch of black pepper, and a small pinch of salt (given that the soy sauce is salty, I think it is better to go light at this point and taste for salt after grilling). If you have time, cover and put back in the fridge for a few hours. Otherwise you can let marinate at room temperate for 30 minutes or so.

Grill to preference (I like medium rare), let rest for a few minutes, then slice thin.

When it gets hot, I tend to go for whites and roses rather than red wine, so I paired this with a dry Riesling.

Now the only question is whether I let Lisl have any leftovers, or greedily keep it all for myself!

Summer Meals: Bean Salad, Tenderloin Marinade and Salad Dressing

It is so nice to have grilling season back upon us. In many cases, our jobs as cooks is to get out of the way and let the food and fresh product do the talking.  Here are notes from Saturday’s dinner, when we had a few guests over for Lisl’s birthday.

Three Bean Salad

1 can of red kidney beans
1 can of garbonzo beans (chickpeas)
1 can of black beans
4 ears of corn
4 sweet peppers (multiple colors if possible), cut into bite sized pieces
1 red onion, diced
1 bunch of spring onion, diced
Large bunch of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
Large bunch of cilantro, washed well and chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil
champagne vinegar

I make this salad slightly different every time, but my basic routine is the following.  Carefully wash the canned beans in a colander, drain and add to the bowl.  Cook each ear of corn, still in the husk, in the microwave for 2 and a half minutes, then remove husk and take kernels off with a knife once cool enough to touch.  Dice the spring onions, using all of the green part, and toss it in with the diced red onion, tomatoes, jalapeno and sweet peppers ( I like using a mix of red, green, orange and yellow).

Dress the salad by taste.  Stir in the cilantro, juice from 1 lemon, juice from 3 or 4 limes, a sprinkle of olive oil and champagne vinegar (but go light on the oil and vinegar — you want the citrus to stand out).  Add salt to taste, and add some freshly ground pepper. Depending on how juicy your limes are, the number of limes you want to use will vary.

I like dressing this ahead of time so everything absorbs some of the citrus flavor.  This is a great, hearty and bright salad for serving a large number of people.

Pork Tenderloin Marinade

Large handful of parsley, chopped
Several sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves removed and chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of fresh pepper

I made this marinade for use on three pork tenderloins — the amounts are ballpark but you can’t really go wrong here.  With a mortar and pestle, mash up the garlic and herbs.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients then rub all over the pork.  Cover and place in the fridge for several hours, then grill by searing the pork and then cooking on a cooler part of your grill until the meat hits the right point of firmness.

Side note: I was cooking on my brother-in-law’s grill the other weekend and I was reminded how difficult it is to work with unfamiliar equipment. I totally overcooked the chicken.  On my own grill, where I know how and where heat distributes, I was really pleased with getting these tenderloins perfect.  Lisl laughed and said it shows just how tough those Top Chef challenges are when they get thrown into crazy circumstances.

Shallot & Lemon Salad Dressing

There’s nothing rocket science here, but I’m addicted to the following salad and dressing and figured I would make a note of it:

Mince up a big shallot (or more than one shallot) and let the shallots sit for 20 to 30 minutes in the juice from 1 lemon and a couple splashes of champagne wine vinegar.  Then wisk in some olive oil, a dab of dijon mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Toss over a bunch of baby arugula (rocket), with some nice tomatoes and maybe some sliced mushrooms or red pepper. Can’t beat it.


I’ve had Disqus installed on my tech blog forever and I *finally* have it installed here.  I much prefer the threaded comment system and after a few goes, it looks like it has imported all the old comments.

Fava, Arugula and Shaved Parmesan: perfect starter or palette cleanser


Here’s a very simple something to start off a meal, or to act as a palette cleanser part way through — best served with a crisp white wine.

I have not been a happy CSA customer this summer (I’ll just say, it’s not *just* the fault of the weather), but I’ll spare you the detail on that. One nice thing they have given us is fava beans, and I was able to pick up some arugula from the farmer’s market this weekend. They paired very nicely here.

Fava Bean, Arugula and Shaved Parmesan Salad
Serves 4
4 large handfuls of fava bean pods, shelled
2 handfuls of arugula leaves, washed with bottom stems removed
1 lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper
dijon mustard
parmesan cheese

After shelling the fava beans, boil them in water for 3-4 minutes then drain and quickly plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Once cool, you want to remove the outer layer of the fava beans. I find it easiest to pinch at the edge of the skin at the dimple of the bean, and then squeeze the bean out — it should slip out quite easily.

Make the dressing by combining the juice of 1 lemon, an equal amount of olive oil, a pinch of salt, a small amount of dijon mustard, and a teaspoon of finely grated parmesan cheese.  Wisk it up well with a fork, then combine with the fava beans in a bowl for about 15 – 20 minutes.

Right before serving, gently mix in the arugula leaves and plate with some fresh pepper and some parmesan shavings on top.

Prosciutto-wrapped figs, arugula and goat cheese salad


I learned to cook from two women: my mother, and Julia Child.  The latter was from a book, but nothing beat looking over my mother’s shoulder and pestering her with questions.  This occurred shortly after I graduated from college, moved to Austin, and quickly realized that the only way I could afford decent food was to make it myself. It did not take many canned soup evenings to tenderize my brain into an eager state to learn.

When we traveled down to Washington D.C. this past weekend, I had a chance to cook in my mother’s kitchen and tried to make the most of it as time permitted.  The dinner was not complex, but the results were successful: this salad followed by a ramp and mushroom risotto (posting next).  This post is about the salad: simmering dried turkish figs with thyme, wrapping them with prosciutto, and serving on a bed of arugula, walnuts and goat cheese with a lemon/olive oil dressing. At the bottom of the post, I’ve also included some photographs taken while walking around Georgetown.

Continue reading “Prosciutto-wrapped figs, arugula and goat cheese salad”

Thanksgiving Pt 3: Pomegranate & Arugula Salad

arugula salad

Part 3 concludes my posts on Thanksgiving dinner. It was a lovely meal with family, and while we fought with our oven (I think the thermostat has gone a little haywire), the results were really quite good. I did not take many pictures. My family enjoys this blog, but I had a feeling I didn’t want to let my camera get between them and the food.

The last dish I wanted to highlight was one of my favorites: a very refreshing pomegranate and arugula salad Lisl put together, inspired by a salad recently posted by Sass & Veracity. The pomegranate seeds were gorgeous little festive jewels on the plate, and their tart sweetness complemented the arugula and vinegar really well.

2 bunches arugula leaves, carefully washed
seeds from 1 pomegranate
3 slices of good bacon, cooked then chopped
handful of cremini mushrooms, finely sliced
1/3 red onion, finely sliced (optional)
white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Wisk vinegar and oil together (start with a 1/3, 2/3 split) with a pinch of salt and pepper and add vinegar or oil until you reach the desired flavor. Add some dressing and toss — add just enough dressing so that everything is lightly coated but not drenched.

We served this with a Lucien Albrecht 2001 Gewurztraminer, from Alsace, courtesy of my father. I don’t usually like sweeter wines at the start of a meal but this paired really well.

Other Thanksgiving Notes
One of the great highlights of the meal was the wine. My father was ridiculously generous and brought three amazing bottles up from his collection: two 1994 Cain Five reds, which we decanted for an hour before dinner and were just sublime, and a 1975 Chateau Suduiraut sauternes which was absolutely delicious (I am sipping it as I write this!).

I should note that we had opened a 1967 sauternes, also given to me by my father, at the 24-24-24 dinner we put on in September, but the wine had really lost most of its body. Not so with the Suduiraut, which I suppose should be expected given the fame of that vineyard. I really should follow in my dad’s footsteps, buy some young sauternes, and save them for 30 years for future special occasions.

My sister and brother-in-law also brought some wonderful wine, but we didn’t actually make it to those bottles. Luckily for me, they are still sitting on our shelf. To the cooks go the spoils!

More on food…
The stuffing came out really well. We had a really big bird, so decided to cook it with onion and lemon inside and do the stuffing on the stovetop. The recipe is here. In past I have used ground pork and my own spices, but since this was a gathering of my parents and sisters (along with husbands and kids), I decided to use Bob Evans breakfast sausage for the meat in the stuffing since that was the way my mother often makes it.


The element that made all the difference in the quality of the gravy and the stuffing was a really good turkey stock we made the day before. We had bought a turkey leg and thigh from the butcher, browned them really well in our dutch oven (such an important step!), and then simmered together with a large onion, several carrots and celery stalks, a couple bay leaves, a tsp of salt and water.

stock making

Lisl also made the cranberry-orange-ginger relish posted by Stacey Snacks, and she loved it. She also made a sweet potato concoction which was supposedly amazing, but the poor thing — all my siblings and I have inherited the “no yams” gene from my father, and my daughter has inherited it from me! So it was a dish only for those who married into the family!

What I *did* really appreciate was Lisl’s pumpkin pie, which we served with the sauternes and two delicious fruit tarts brought by my parents. All in all, it was a wonderful day of good food, good conversation, and the wonderful re-affirming of family.

I hope all of you had a marvelous Thanksgiving day as well!

pumpkin pie

Simple & Hearty Late-Summer Salad

Late summer salad
(I wanted to start by wishing the best to all the folks dealing with hurricane season this year. Hang in there!)

I’ll count my blessings that up here the weather has been quite civilized. I think I’ve commented before how Fall is my favorite season. It’s like baby bear’s porridge: not too hot, not too cold… it’s just right! We ate lunch outside today after whipping up the following salad that was simple, hearty and delicious.

Served 2
1 cup mayacoba beans
2 italian sausages, medium spicy
1/2 green pepper
1/2 red pepper
1/2 jalapeno pepper
large handful of red and/or orange cherry tomatoes
2 large handfuls of flat-leaf parsley
2 lemons
olive oil
salt and pepper

I used mayacoba beans from Rancho Gordo, but any favorite salad bean can be swapped in here. Mayacoba beans take on flavor well and are nicely meaty. I cooked the beans without soaking until tender (about an hour) before making the salad. To cook, cover the beans with about an inch of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil for a couple of minutes, and then lower to a light simmer and cover. Cooking time will depend on bean type and age, so you can check for tenderness by biting into a bean periodically.

Grill or saute the italian sausage, then cut into 1/3 to 1/2 inch slices at an angle.

Slice the green and red peppers into thin strips, and cut any long strips in half so they are not unmanageable on the fork. Halve the cherry tomatoes, and chop up the parsley. De-seed the jalapeno and finely chop.

Combine it all in a bowl. Grind a bit of salt and pepper on top, add some lemon juice (I used the juice of 2 small lemons) and a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil. Mix gently and let it sit for about 10 minutes before mixing again and serving.

Late summer salad