To celebrate me losing all of my dessert cookbook weight, let's have a salad!
I've been enjoying this grapefruit fennel salad for months now. It was inspired by a recipe in Amanda Cohen's cookbook, Dirt Candy. If you're unfamiliar with the NYC veggie-focused restaurant by the same name or its comic-book-themed cookbook spin-off, I suggest you seek out the latter the next time you're at the library or your local bookstore. It's an entertaining read as it illustrates, quite literally, the reality of opening a new restaurant, Cohen's stint on Iron Chef America, as well as cooking techniques for vegetables. As the author and heroine of this graphic novel, Cohen dons her chefly superpowers with wit and humility. The book is great fun, as is her blog. Check out this hilarious post on how her celery salad went over at the NYC Wine & Food Fest. If you find yourself defecting to her blog, I'll totally understand!
But back to the salad. Cohen's version includes candied grapefruit lollipops and grilled cheese croutons, which are no doubt delicious, but my version is a little more pared down (read: lazy). I've settled on this basic arrangement: mixed greens with thinly sliced fennel and red onion, segmented grapefruit, and crumbled feta. The salad benefits from having something fatty and salty in the mix, so if you forgo the cheese, fill the void with crumbled bacon, chopped almonds or pistachios, or cubed avocado with a sprinkling of sea salt. The dressing, which I make with anise seeds instead of fennel seeds, is mildly fruity and refreshing. It's the perfect pre-summer salad.
(It also reminds me a little bit of dessert!)
Below are my suggestions, but use what you like in the proportions of your choosing. Just be sure to slice the vegetables very thinly. A tangle of radish sprouts would be a nice addition. The amounts below serve two grownups. Scale up as you wish.
1 to 2 cups mixed lettuce, spinach, and baby kale
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (only cut what you'll use)
1 red grapefruit
Crumbled feta, goat cheese, or queso fresco
Chopped salted almonds or pistachios (optional)
1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest (from 1 grapefruit)
2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad, toss the lettuce, fennel, and onion in a bowl.
Finely grate the zest from the grapefruit and set it aside for the dressing. Cut the grapefruit in half and reserve one of the halves for the dressing. To segment the other half, place it cut-side-down and slice the peel off the grapefruit in swaths, following the contour of the fruit. Then turn it over and cut between the membranes to remove the juicy flesh in between. Set the grapefruit segments aside in a shallow bowl.
For the dressing, add the grapefruit zest, grapefruit juice from the reserved grapefruit half, lemon juice, anise seeds, and mustard to a blender. Blend on high, then reduce the speed to low and slowly stream in the oil until smooth and emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste. (The dressing can be stored in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to a week.)
Lightly dress the greens and veggies just before serving. Arrange the salad on plates with the grapefruit segments, cheese, and nuts if using. Serve additional dressing at the table.
Source: Adapted from Dirt Candy by Amanda Cohen, Ryan Dunlavey, and Grady Hendrix