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Fennel and Arugula Salad with Lemon Shallot Dressing

January 7, 2015

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I’ve never been a ‘salad girl’ (if that’s even a thing). Not that I don’t like salads, I just can’t seem to be fully satisfied by them. For better or worse, I’m the girl who’s been known to approach her burger like it’s an Olympic event, while not-so-stealthily eyeing, with moderate envy, the svelte girl at the next table who is casually and gracefully enjoying her dainty greens.

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That’s the other thing… in case it wasn’t already clear, I’m also not the most graceful of eaters. I’m more of a “let’s get down to business” kind of girl when it comes to my food.  I often joke that I live up to my last name by “Hoovering” my meals (less out of pride and more as an awkward explanation as to why I’ve finished my meal before my dining companion has enjoyed four bites). But I digress… back to the salads.

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I’ve always been envious of those people who can turn a simple salad into a meal. I’m not talking about the heartier, protein-rich Cobbs or Chicken Caesars, but the protein-deficient, leafy greens with light balsamic dressing (and, if they’re really going crazy, some toasted almond slivers or a few slices of avocado).

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No matter how much I’ve wanted to be a Salad Girl, this desire has been handicapped by:  a) my flawed beliefs that salads are best suited as sides and starters as opposed to a meal, and b) my quasi-debilitating cravings for burgers, pizza and pad thai. That is, until now.

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I recently enjoyed an amazing cracked crab dinner at the home of dear friends. Their daughters are some of my best and most cherished girlfriends, and over the years their mother, Janie, has become as much of a friend and confidant as she has a parental figure. In numerous ways, she is my idol: patient, kind, giving, funny, thoughtful, sincere, and with a heart so full and pure there are times when I’m convinced that she missed her calling as the modern Mother Theresa. She’s also an amazing chef, and helped to transform my early interest in cooking into a full-blown passion by sharing her favorite recipes, ingredients, culinary techniques and cookware.  Many of my most cherished memories took place in her kitchen.

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At this amazing cracked crab dinner, Janie prepared the simplest but most flavorful side salad that I could not get enough of.  It was a game changer, and the first time I looked at one of those “protein-deficient, leafy green” salads and realized that I loved it so much I could actually eat it as a meal. Wanted to eat it as a meal. Every meal. For a week.

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I only lasted two days before confirming the ingredients with her and trying out the recipe for myself. My dressing to salad ratio was off on the first try, but the second attempt was the stuff of legends.

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This salad is unequivocally simple. And in the spirit of the New Year and all things healthy, it’s the perfect way to celebrate flavor while staying true to most diet regimens. Unless you add a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc (which I highly recommend as it makes for an excellent addition).

 

Bon Appétit!

 

Fennel and Arugula Salad with Lemon Shallot Dressing

Ingredients:

1 medium fennel bulb

6-8 cups loose arugula

1 large meyer lemon (or 2 regular lemons)

1 shallot, finely minced

4 tbsp lemon olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

 

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine minced shallot, sea salt and lemon juice and allow to soak for 10-15 minutes

Thoroughly wash the fennel bulb and chop off the end of the base

Using a mandolin, run the fennel over to create thin ribbons. Set aside with washed arugula

Add the lemon olive oil to the shallot mixture, and pour over fennel and arugula mix

Toss gently, adding ground pepper as desired

 

Chef’s Note: This salad is fantastic and fresh on its own, but delightful additions include pomegranate seeds and/or thinly shaved pecorino,

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