29 July 2012

Roasted Fennel & Cherry Salad

In tribute to the Olympics, the athleticism, the drive and the passion of the games, we have had a series of sporting events in our little lives.  I believe there is no better way to support our team competing in London than some friendly competition back home.  So far, we're doing quite well, having earned a silver medal in the Wood-Fire Pizza Competition and two golds in Best Use of Pizza Leftovers and Best Wine.  Unfortunately, the we let the US down in our events this evening, not even medaling in the fiercely competitive Backyard Badminton.  In our defense, I strongly believe that the United States team needs to reconsider their Olympic selections based on the competition this evening.

Needless to say, after dragging our weary bodies home from the backyard in shame, a quick and cool dinner was in order.  Not only that, but we needed something to inspire our shattered souls and rally for my next event, Sand Volleyball.  Hence, this evening's salad was born.

Behold....our inspiration!

I know I've posted pictures of this jam before, specifically in regards to its delicious pairing with Ossau Iraty cheese, a consistent gold medal winner in our books.  Welp, having picked up a block at the market this week, I saw no reason that the delicious anise flavor of fennel and sweet Pacific Northwest cherries should not be united in another way - a salad.  It seems so natural, like peanut butter & jelly, chocolate & coffee or Pinot Noir and salmon.  And since its summer, a salad seemed like the perfect option.

Roasted fennel is one of our favorite side dishes.  Simply slice, sprinkle with parmesan and roast for 20 minutes and BAM!  You have a whammy of a flavor that cannot be compared to anything else.  It adds a sweet pop to any dish or makes an excellent side all on its own.  Plus the aromatics of this fabulous veggie are amazing.  Just go eat some...you'll see.

With the all the great flavor from the cherries and fennel, everything else with this dish is super simple.  Peppery arugula and a thick balsamic reduction balance our the sweetness of the duo while roasted pistachios add just a little bit of crunch.  This dinner, with a side of cold chicken, Ossau Iraty and crackers, has lifted our spirits and prepared us for our next event.....dessert.

Roasted Fennel & Cherry Salad (2-4 servings)

  • 1 bulb fennel
  • parmesan cheese
  • 20 cherries
  • 3 c arugula
  • 1 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c roasted pistachios
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  While oven is warming up, chop the long tops off the fennel and thinly slice with a knife or mandolin into pieces about 1/3 inch thick.  Spray a baking sheet with non-stick and lay the fennel in a single layer.  Spray again with non-stick and grate the parmesan over the baking sheet.  Roast for 20-25 minutes until the fennel is fragrant and soft when poked with a fork.  Remove from oven to cool.

Place the balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan and place over medium-high heat.  When it begins to bubble, reduce heat to medium and let simmer until the volume is halved and the vinegar has thickened.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.  

Slice the cherries in half and remove the pits.  Place in a medium bowl with the arugula.  Roughly chop the roasted fennel and add to the bowl.  Mix together and transfer to a serving plate.  Sprinkle with pistachios and drizzle with balsamic reduction.  Best served after a rousing game of badminton.  

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