Phoebe wrote about these Crispy Pimenton Chickpeas with Spanish Rice and Mag Club’s recent predilection for bean dishes. It’s not all that surprising that beans appear often, considering we do try to keep things vegetarian. But you don’t really want to be feasting from a buffet full only of beans on a regular basis, even if some are in hummus form, others part of a simple sauté.
This salad is what I brought to last month’s meeting. I figured it could act as an antitote to whatever ingredient we had too much of, a purposeful exemption from Mag Club ESP, just in case that ESP converged on beans again, or on cheese, pasta, or bread, and especially since Leora wasn’t going to be able to make it (she’s our resident salad bringer). As it turned out, we had a pretty decent array of beans, cheeses, and even meat (a Persian beef stew made by Michelle) for a change.
Anyway, it’s really a simple salad, but it is punctuated by the sparklingly flavorful ingredients I think a good salad needs to help the lettuce go down.
By the way, to last night’s Mag Club I meant to bring these scallions (I wound up forgetting them at home). But they would have been an awesome addition to last month’s salad if I could have collapsed time and braised them while I roasted the fennel.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Fennel & Raisin Salad with Walnut Croutons
Serves 4-6, as a side
I was lucky to have had a wedge of this bread for my croutons. Use any bakery walnut, pecan, walnut-raisin, or pecan-cranberry bread. If you don’t want to buy a whole loaf just to make croutons, see if your supermarket sells good nutty rolls (Whole Foods does), and pick up 3 or 4 of those.
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed, outer layer removed
4 thick slices walnut bread
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup raisins
1 large head romaine lettuce, trimmed, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Djion mustard
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Pinch dried thyme
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slice each fennel bulb in half and use your knife to cut out the triangular core–discard the cores. Slice each half into 4 to 6 wedges.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the fennel, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a 1 teaspoon salt. Spread the fennel on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 mintes, until browned and tender. Set aside while you make the rest of the salad (you can do this up to 2 hours in advance–it’s fine if the fennel is room temperature.)
Turn the oven down to 350°F.
Place the butter in a 9 x 9 or 9 x 13-inch baking pan and place it in the oven to melt, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the slices of bread into squares. When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the oven and add the bread cubes and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Use tongs or a spatula to toss so the bread cubes all get coated in butter. Return the croutons to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, turning once. They should be golden and crispy. Use immediately or at room temperature within a few hours of baking.
Place the raisins in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water. Let soak for 5 minutes to plump up the raisins, then drain off the water and pat the raisins dry.
Whisk together the lemon juice and cider vinegar in a heavy medium bowl (heavy so it doesn’t move around while you whisk!). Whisk in the mustard, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking as you go. You always want the oil to become integrated into the vinegar mixture immediately–it should never be left on the surface. As you go, taste for tanginess and balance of flavors. The best way to taste is on a piece of lettuce. Add a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper, plus the thyme. Drizzle in more olive oil if you like your dressing richer.
When ready to serve, toss the greens with about half the vinaigrette. Place in a serving bowl and arrange the fennel on top. Sprinkle on the raisins, then the croutons. Pass more dressing on the side.