Fennel Citrus Salad
Fennel is a wonderful vegetable. It comes in a white bulb with many layers like an onion, except fennel layers are thicker. It has long green fronds that look a bit like dill and are also delicious. Fennel can be eaten raw or cooked. It is crisp and crunchy when raw, has a slight anise flavor, and seems a bit denser than celery. When cooked it adds a little Mediterranean flavor to the dish.
For the salad you will need
1 large fennel bulb
Juice of ½ lemon
2 pink grapefruit
1 small red onion
2 tablespoons of chopped fennel fronds
1 tablespoon of mint chiffonade
3 tablespoons of fruity olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Cut the fronds off the fennel and reserve some of them. There are usually a lot. They don’t keep well, so unless you have another use, just toss the rest. If the outer layer of the fennel is funky, peel it off. Cut the bulb in quarters, leaving the core where it is. Slice the fennel into thin slivers on a mandolin or with a very sharp knife to the core, which you then throw out. Keeping the core in the individual fennel quarters will prevent fennel from flying everywhere when you slice it.
Squeeze the juice of ½ lemon over the fennel and toss. That will prevent discoloration.
To prepare the citrus, cut off the peel and the white pithy skin with a sharp knife. Working over a bowl and still with the sharp knife, cut citrus sections out from between the membranes. This is called supreming the citrus. Capture the supremes and the juice in your bowl. Squeeze out the leftover membranes to get as much juice as possible.
When you have supremed all the citrus, remove it from the juice with a slotted spoon (or something comparable) and add it to the fennel.
To make the dressing, add about ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper to the juice. Whisk in the good olive oil until the dressing emulsifies.
At this point you can refrigerate the fennel/citrus in a bowl and the dressing in another and combine everything just before serving.
To finish, arrange fennel/citrus in a pretty and shallow bowl, pour the dressing over everything, sprinkle the top with chopped fennel fronds and mint chiffonade. You can add a big sprig of fennel frond as decoration. Serve ice cold and enjoy!
This will serve 6 as an appetizer portion.
Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup
This is a really tasty summer soup. It has a creamy consistency but not very many calories. You can really fool your guests with this one.
2 or 3 English cucumbers – depending on size
About 1 cup of cubed avocado (that could be two small Hass, ½ huge Florida – hard to gauge before you know what your market offers)
½ cup 1/2&1/2 or milk
16-24 ounces yogurt (use what you like: Greek, whole milk, low fat, etc)
1 jalapeno pepper
4 green onions
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
Zest and juice of one lemon
Peel and core the cucumbers. Give them a really rough chop and place in the blender. Add the liquid and pulse until cucumbers start to liquefy, then give them a good spin.
Cut the flesh of the jalapeno away from the seeds and chop it into 6 or 8 pieces. Add to the blender with the yogurt, avocado, salt and pepper. Blend away. It should be very smooth. Check taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.
Pour soup into a container.
Wash and clean the green onions. Chop finely and stir into the soup. Chill for several hours.
Just before serving, zest a lemon into the soup and add the juice. You can either serve in a glass bowl or individual cups or glasses. It’s very pretty, taste best when very cold, and is most delicious.
Garnish with fennel fronds (if you still have some), finely minced parsley, a dollop of sour cream, chopped chives… use your imagination.
Roasted pepper and goat cheese sandwiches on ciabatta
These sandwiches will blow you away – yummO! They are best made a little ahead so the flavors can blend into the bread. I used the mini ciabatta from the Target bakery and calculated 1 per 2 people with a few extra halves. However, you can also use a big loaf of ciabatta and just cut it into portions accordingly. If you get the small ciabatta buns, use one per person.
You will need
2 red and 2 yellow bell peppers – get the big kind or get more if they are tiny
3 tablespoons of good olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp of kosher salt – or more to taste
1 tsp black pepper
1 tablespoons drained capers
4 mini ciabattas, sliced in half horizontally
2 little logs of goat cheese
4 tablespoons 1/2&1/2
2 tablespoons chives or chopped green onion
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup whole basil leaves
1 small red onion
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (wowzers). Place the washed peppers in a roasting pan and pop in the oven for about 30 minutes. Turn them once and take them out when the skin starts turning dark. Cover the (very, very hot) pan with aluminum foil and let it stand until the peppers are okay to handle.
While that is happening, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and then add capers.
Slip the skins off the peppers, pull out the stem, and scrape out all the seeds. Cut each pepper lengthwise into about four pieces. Add the peppers and their juices to the oil/vinegar mixture. Stir around, give the juice/dressing a taste and adjust salt.
Let the peppers marinate at room temperature for about an hour. If you want to make them the day ahead, refrigerate and let them reach room temp before assembling the sandwiches.
Allow goat cheese to come to room temperature as well. Remove wrapper and place cheese in a small bowl. Add milk or half and half, as well as pepper and chives. Stir with a fork until well incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to go.
To assemble the sandwiches, use goat cheese at room temp.
Heat ciabatta breads in a 350 oven for about 10 minutes. You just want them to lose some of their chewiness, but not to get crunchy.
Let the ciabatta cool off a bit before assembling.
And here you go: On the domed part of the ciabatta, spoon some of the bell pepper sauce and capers. In a single layer, place red and yellow peppers on top. Add some thinly sliced onion rings and a layer of whole basil leaves.
On the bottom half, spread ¼ of the goat cheese. Place the bottom on the pepper/onion/basil half. Flip sandwich over and slice on the diagonal to get two triangles. On the platter!
Repeat with the other three ciabattas. If you are using one large ciabatta, adjust your actions accordingly.
Let the sandwiches rest and the flavors marry while you’re eating or preparing other things.
Enough for 8, or 6 with two extras.
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