Lentil Salad with Fennel and Smoked Salmon

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The weather of late is calling more for salads than soup. We know of course that’s going to change. This salad is like a bridge — or maybe a hybrid (hybridge?). It marries tastes of the season — smoked salmon anyone? — hardy fare — lentils, after all — with light treatment in a wonderful Asian-inspired dressing. It seems an unlikely combination but don’t be fooled. You’ll enjoy it for lunch or as a dinner with soup (when the inevitable chill comes back) and crusty bread. The original recipe is from Fine Cooking.

2 C cooked lentils (Melissa’s or Trader Joe’s)
1 medium clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
Kosher salt
½ medium shallot, finely chopped (about 1½ Tbs.)
3 Tbs. rice vinegar
2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger (use small holes on a box grater)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. fennel seed, busted up in a mortar and pestle
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup oil (canola or olive)
9 small radishes, halved and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
½ small bulb fennel, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 cup), plus 1 Tbs. chopped fennel fronds
chopped parsley
4 oz. cold-smoked salmon, cut into ½-inch squares (about ½-cup)

Whisk garlic, shallot, vinegar, ginger, mustard, fennel seed, 1½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Whisk in the oil.

In a large bowl, toss the lentils, radishes, fennel, fennel fronds, and chives with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat everything lightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (You can prepare the salad to this point up to 4 hours ahead.) Just before serving, gently stir in the salmon and a few grinds of pepper. Garnish with parsley.

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Pan-Fried Halloumi with Fennel, Olive & Mint

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Halloumi is the cheese you can cook. It doesn’t melt, it just gets a nice crust on the outside when you pan-fry or grill it. Salty, chewy and intense, the cheese is a favorite in Cyprus, its country of origin, where in the summer it is commonly served grilled with tomatoes or watermelon. Halloumi is becoming increasingly popular around the globe and when you try this recipe you’ll understand its following. High in protein — the cheese is typically made from goat or sheep’s milk — it’s a great substitute for meat in vegetarian diets. This treatment makes it a good choice as a first course. Served as a side with a rice pilaf or lentil stew, you have a lovely filling meal you won’t soon forget.  The remaining half of the fennel bulb can be added to a roast vegetable to accompany this or your next meal. This recipe was adapted by Adrienne, who demoed it at USBG September 16 2015.

3 T olive oil
½ medium fennel bulb, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1-1/4 cups)
½ medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3/4 cup)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 pitted Kalamata olives, slivered (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1 t finely grated lemon zest
1/3 C minced fresh mint
1 8-oz. package halloumi cheese, cut into 1/4- to 3/8-inch-thick slices

Heat 2 T olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the fennel and onions, cover and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften (but don’t let them brown), 2-3 min. Reduce the heat to medium low, add 1/4 t salt and 1/4 t pepper and continue to cook until the vegetables soften completely, another 2-3 min. Turn the heat to low and stir in the olives, lemon zest, mint. Transfer to a bowl and reserve.

Wipe out skillet and add remaining olive oil; heat on medium high until hot, about 1 minute. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan, cook the halloumi until golden in spots, about 2 min. Flip and cook until the second side of each slice is golden, about 2 min. more. Reduce the heat as needed if the halloumi is browning too fast.

Shingle the halloumi on a serving platter. Stir the vegetables and spoon over the halloumi, drizzle with hot olive oil from skillet. Serve immediately.


Make Your Own Pickles and More

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We were talking to  gardeners and school educators yesterday and the subject led to what to do with all the wonderful summer veggies coming along now. Here’s a great way your summer bounty is transformed into a tangy, crunchy, flavorful snack or side dish, complete with all kinds of health benefits.

Instead of the more common vinegar preservation, lacto-fermenting produces lactic acid, which not only gives dilly veggies their tang, but also preserves them without canning so that they will keep in cold storage for months with all their enzymes and vitamins intact. Here’s a natural way to get the fantastic benefits of a probiotic into your diet – with great taste and crunch.

2 quarts water
4-6 T good sea salt
1-2# veggies of your choice- young green beans (trimmed), carrots, okra, radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, fennel (use firmer veggies if doing a mix) OR all cucumbers (whole, wedges or thickly sliced)
1-2 t red pepper flakes, or to taste
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 T black peppercorns
2 handfuls of dill (flowering heads preferred, but leaves work well too)

Instructions:

  1. Dissolve sea salt in water to make a brine. Set aside.
  2. Divide the red pepper flakes, garlic cloves, peppercorns, and dill between 2 wide mouth quart-size glass jars.
  3. Place the veggies/cucumbers on top of the seasonings, straight up if they are long and thin or sideways if thicker and cut into chunks.
  4. Cover with brine solution, leaving 1 inch headspace at the top of jar. If necessary, weigh the veggies down with a small jar filled with water, just enough to allow the veggies to be submerged in the brine.
  5. Cover the jar with a tight lid, airlock lid, or coffee filter secured with a rubber band.
  6. Culture at room temperature (60-70°F is preferred) until desired flavor and texture are achieved. If using a tight lid, burp daily to release excess pressure. Taste after 3 days to decide if you like the flavor more fermented, but I find 3-6 days is plenty.
  7. Once the veggies are finished, put a tight lid on the jar and move to the refrigerator.

Makes 2 quarts.


Green Bean Salad with Walnuts, Fennel and Goat Cheese

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Got green beans coming out of your ears? This month at the US Botanic Gardens here in Washington, DC, we brought two new salads using this popular legume. Green beans aren’t just to be tossed in a little butter – these summery salads are sure to zing things up.

1 ½ T Dijon mustard
2 T white wine vinegar
¾ t sea salt
½ t freshly ground black pepper
1/3 C extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds green beans, trimmed (a combination of green and yellow is great)
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced into half-moons (1¼ to 1½ C)
¾ C walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 (4-oz) log fresh goat cheese, crumbled
¼ C fresh dill, chopped
¼ C flat leaf parsley, chopped

 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Gradually add the oil and whisk until well combined; set aside. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain, run under cold water to cool, and set aside until you’re ready to assemble the salad.

In a large bowl, combine the green beans, fennel, and walnuts. Add the goat cheese, herbs and vinaigrette just before serving (the acidity of the vinegar with turn the green beans to a dull green if marinated). Toss well and serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 8-10.


Butternut Squash, Tomato, Fennel and Orzo Casserole with Sage

orzo casseroleOrzo is the rice version of pasta – it’s a bit bigger than rice when it cooks up, but you get the idea. Definitely under cook the orzo when assembling this dish or you’ll have gooey pasta in your casserole by the time you bake it with all the added ingredients. Butternut squash is the star in this dish – as it should be. We love butternut squash in all sorts of winter dishes. That and the sage just seem to go together like Ginger and Fred and in this dish they do quite the dance.  Oh, and if you’re not a fan of orzo – not everyone is – substitute one of those darling mini pastas, like baby penne or tiny bowties. This dish, by the way, is supremely child-friendly.  Danielle demoed this at US Botanic Garden and Brookside in February 2015, when our month’s theme was “hearty casseroles.” Adapted from the original by Martha Stewart.

1 C orzo pasta
1 small (about 1 pound) butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch wedges
1 small red onion, slices into half moons
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 T olive oil
1 small bulb (¼ pound) fennel, rinsed and trimmed of stalks and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
1 T fresh sage, chopped
1 C Monterey jack cheese, shredded
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Topping:
1 C Panko breadcrumbs
1 T olive oil
1 T parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water for the pasta to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly firm to the bite; drain and transfer to a medium-sized bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, spread the butternut squash in an even layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast until tender, 12 to 15 minutes then add to the bowl with the orzo.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and garlic and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Lastly, add the tomatoes and sage and increase the heat. Bring the mixture to a boil for 2 minutes, then transfer to the bowl with the orzo and squash. Mix everything well, season with salt and pepper. Add the shredded cheese and mix again.

Transfer orzo mixture to an 8×8 baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes, until cheese is melted. While the casserole is baking, mix together the panko, chopped parsley and olive oil. Remove the foil from the casserole and sprinkle the top with panko mixture. Bake, uncovered, until panko is toasted, about 10 -15 minutes more. Serves 6.


Winter Slaw of Fennel, Carrots, Cucumber and Orange

A crispy, crunchy bite in every mouthful — and packed with Vitamin C to boot — this slaw makes a great side or even a condiment on a bbq pork sandwich or turkey burger.

1 large fennel bulb (about ½ lb), stalks and fronds removed, bulb cut into large chunks and rinsed
2 large carrots
1 small cucumber, peeled, quartered, seeded and very thinly sliced
1 orange (navel, Cara or blood if available), peel removed with a knife and segmented,
OR peel removed with a knife, sliced into rounds and rounds cut into quarters
½ C golden raisins
¼ C apple cider vinegar (for a sweeter taste, use ½ C fresh apple cider)
½ C olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Fresh dill or fresh mint, chopped – for garnish (optional)
½ C walnuts, chopped – optional

Put the raisins and the apple cider vinegar in a small bowl and let soak while you prepare the slaw. In a food processor fitted with the shred blade, drop the chunks of fennel one at a time to grate. Transfer to a salad bowl. Do the same for the carrots and add them to the fennel. Thinly slice the quartered, peeled, seeded cucumber either with a knife or on a mandolin. Add them to the salad bowl along with the orange segments.

Whisk the olive oil directly into the raisins and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the slaw and mix well. (Note: if your vegetables are quite large, you may need to double the amount of dressing.) Let the slaw sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours and toss every now and again. Serve chilled, garnished with fresh chopped dill or mint and/or walnuts. Serves 4-6.