Friday, June 1, 2012

Grapefruit and Fennel Salad

When I lived in Montreal, I hosted monthly dinner parties to fundraise for my volunteer trip in the Philippines, it was a great opportunity to feed my friends (one party had more than 30 dinner guests!), though I really had an ulterior motive: to tackle the never-ending list of recipes I had collected. I’m the type to try out new recipes and techniques, I don’t usually repeat the same dish twice unless it’s a real game changer, but when your friends start requesting for the same thing, you know you’ve got a keeper.

I give you: fennel and apple salad (See? Only two ingredients are needed, keeper right?). Thinly sliced fennel tossed with equally thin sliced apples dressed in a vinaigrette is enough to woo your diners. The crispness of each bite crackles in your mouth, leaving you feeling refreshed, charged and pumped for the next course. My only complaint is the salad bowl might be emptied by the time its passed around the table, so make extra salad-- you can thank me later.

Most of my friends know how much I think about food. I go to bed thinking of breakfast, I think of dinner on the way home from work, and when I’m on long-distance calls, you will most certainly find my fingers dipped in a bowl of Cherrios or granola, munching away and talking with my mouth full. I’ve received plenty of wonderful food gifts in recent years too: cookbooks, a small spatula in a shape of a finger, my pink stand mixer, silicone muffin cups, even a meal at a bistro makes me very happy. One friend mailed me recipe cards once (from this beautiful store), printed on hard paper, one side was a glossy snapshot of a beautiful dish and the other side was the recipe.

The cards captured the essence of simple eating: using the finest ingredients to create something delicious. I was given three recipe cards, including one for a fennel salad, but not similar to the aforementioned salad at all, no, it was a recipe for a salad fit for a warm sunny day, for a picnic maybe, to adventurous food-loving friends. 

I give you salad number two: grapefruit and fennel salad. A different fruit, a different story. Unlike its predecessor, it’s less straightforward, more playful, teasing and nudging you in all the right ways. Quite frankly, it unexpectedly works. It's a creamy, crunchy, juicy salad that might as well be a Monet painting. Ain’t it a beauty? It's pretty to look at and pretty easy to make: prepare thin fennel slices and pair it with ruby red grapefruit, crumbled goat cheese, fresh dill plus a drizzle of fruity olive oil. The acidity from the fruit binds the bright flavours together and the various textures keep you guessing. It’s a clever salad, genius even. 

Grapefruit and Fennel Salad
Adapted from Les Touilleurs

I just discovered the mother lode of Les Touilleurs recipes on their site, so you can bet I'll be using more of their ideas in the future (I'm in love! Did you see their panna cotta?). If you ever get a chance, you must visit this beautiful kitchen store on Laurier Avenue in Montreal, it's intimidating to walk into at first, the store is impeccably clean and organized, but I love looking at the unique bundt pans they sell. In regards to this recipe, it's dead simple and can be put together in a matter of minutes. I clearly didn't segment my grapefruit like a professional, but do what works for you, if you need some guidance, here's a good video to lead you on your way. 

2 large pink grapefruits
1 medium-sized fennel bulb
1 small bunch of fresh dill
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

Cut off top and bottom ends of grapefruit. Stand on 1 flat side. Starting at top of fruit, cut off all peel and white pith, following curve of fruit. Working over bowl, cut between membranes, releasing segments; squeeze any juice into bowl. Transfer segments to another bowl.

Cut fennel in half lengthwise; remove core. Using mandoline or sharp knife, slice fennel.

Combine fennel and grapefruit segments in a large bowl, add dill and goat cheese. Arrange salad on platter. Drizzle lightly with oil, then grapefruit juice, if desired. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Recipe here!

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