Friday, April 4, 2008

Weekend Eagle Blogging Week 1: Apple, Fennel, and Celery Salad

The story of how W.E.B. began:

A couple of weekends ago while I was making lunch, Jeff suddenly froze at the computer. In an intense whisper, he said: "Sue, there's an eagle on our windowsill." "Yeah, right," I responded, and continued slicing my fennel.

The next thing I knew, Jeff s-l-o-w-l-y slithered out of his chair and grabbed the camera. So I dropped my chef's knife and walked to the window. "OH MY GOD! There's an eagle on our windowsill!" I exclaimed. "I know, that's what I tried to tell you!" he said.

Jeff made it to our deck and started snapping pictures of this fiercely beautiful creature. We were mesmerized; it's not too often you see an eagle on your windowsill. After several minutes, he took off, and we went inside to eat our lunch, which included this apple, fennel, and celery salad. Which is when this brilliant idea hit me.

For months now, I have been holding back. Well, no more. I am frankly quite tired of the whole weekend cat blogging scene. Having never had a cat nor met a cat I particularly liked (or that liked me), I have always felt left out on Saturdays. I think I might have been a dog in a former life or something, because every time I encounter a cat, it stops in its tracks and stares me right in the eyes -- like it knows my secret or something. Even in pictures on the web, they are staring at me.

Every Saturday as I troll through my reader, I jump when a cat picture pops up. I have found myself now avoiding the whole Saturday scene. So here's my idea. For all you non-cat girls (and guys) like me who slump on the sofa on Saturdays, ostracized by the cat community, I'm starting W.E.B. (Weekend Eagle Blogging). Send me your most adorable shots of Tabby or Fluffy the eagle eating a rodent or picking road kill out its talons, and I'll post it. Oh yeah, this is gonna be big.

eagle turning

eagle stare
"I likes to eats weekend catz."

eagle down
"I seez raisins on that apple fennel salad."

apple, fennel, and celery salad

This salad is like a farewell to winter and a hello to spring: winter's tart Granny Smith apples get a lift from the season's new crop of licorice-laced fennel and fresh dill. Topping it off with plump, chewy raisins makes it even sweeter. It's a satisfying salad of complex textures and flavors that is sure to please (even if you don't have any eagles to admire while you eat it).

fennel bulb

Since I never feel left out of Weekend Herb Blogging, I'm sending my salad to this week's host and creator of WHB, the always kind Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.

In addition to being an aphrodisiac, mildly licorice-flavored fennel is low in calories and nutritious. One cup of sliced fennel is only 27 calories and has a mere 6 grams of carbohydrates. Yet it provides 17% of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin C. It's currently in season and is exceptionally flavorful, so it's the perfect time to try it.

Apple, Fennel, and Celery Salad

Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.

1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 shallot, sliced
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice**
3-4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped
Salt and black pepper, to taste

8 cups spicy mesclun greens
1 large Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice**
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 inner celery stalks, sliced on the diagonal, with some leaves
2 tablespoons crimson or golden raisins
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts

Optional garnishes:
fennel fronds, fresh dill, toasted nuts, such as almonds, chestnuts, pecans, or pistachios

To toast the walnuts, place in a small, dry skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic. Set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, place mustard seeds in a small, dry skillet over medium heat; toast for 1-2 minutes until they begin to pop; set aside. In the same skillet, sauté shallots in olive oil; whisk in remaining vinaigrette ingredients. Turn off heat.

For the salad, place apple and fennel slices in a bowl with fresh lemon juice and toss to prevent them from turning brown. Pour out lemon juice before adding to salad.

In a large bowl, add mesclun, apple and fennel slices, and celery; add vinaigrette, and toss until well coated. Divide among 4 plates. Garnish with raisins and walnuts.

**If you can't find Meyer lemons, then regular lemons are fine.

You might like these other recipes featuring fennel:

**Update: OK, OK, so it's not an eagle; it's a hawk. But WHB was already taken.

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