My friend S. mentioned that she currently has a bumper crop of lettuce, which got me thinking about warm salads. I have often wondered why Americans don’t usually cook salad greens; it is an easy way to increase one’s veggie intake. It’s also a handy way to use up the greens before they go bad — I’m sure we aren’t the only family who buy lettuce with good intentions but sometimes find it shriveled in the fridge several days later.
While I was thinking about salads, I found gigantic bulbs of Florence fennel at our local farmer’s market. I had my littles with me, so was not able to get a picture, but it was an impressive site: with the fronds attached, each fennel bulb was about two feet long. It was so strikingly beautiful, I just had to buy some. I remembered that my friend with all the lettuce also happens to be very fond of fennel, and that as a college student in Santa Barbara, she used to forage for wild fennel.
I brought these two ideas together to create a simple, paleo-friendly dish that is inexpensive enough for a college student budget, and substantial enough for a meal. I used spinach because that was what I had on hand, but another salad green like a red leaf or buttercrunch lettuce would be just as tasty and would take even less time.
The mild, licorice-like taste of fennel gets even milder here, with gentle cooking; the deeper flavors of garlic and bacon dominate. Dress this salad with a dash of oil and vinegar; add tomatoes and slices of avocado if you like, but it is quite tasty as is.
Fennel & Onion Salad with Bacon
- 1 12 oz. package bacon
- 4 medium cloves garlic
- 1 medium bulb fennel
- 1 purple onion
- 1 lb. spinach
- Salt and pepper
- Prepare bacon in the oven, following the package directions. Once the bacon is fully cooked, remove from the oven and set it aside, reserving the rendered fat.
- Meanwhile, mince garlic. Thinly slice fennel and onion. Wash the spinach; spin the leaves dry in a salad spinner. (If you do not own a salad spinner, just squeeze the moisture from the leaves as best you can and pat them dry with a paper towel.)
- Warm a large saute pan over medium heat for approximately two minutes. Pour the rendered bacon grease into the saute pan.
- Add minced garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic browns. Add onions and fennel to pan; saute them until they soften (6-8 minutes).
- Add spinach to the saute pan. Stirring continuously, cook until spinach is warmed through (4-5 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste. Crumble in the reserved bacon. Serve immediately.
There is no love in my heart for summer’s heat. My ideal temperature hovers between “comfortable in a sleeveless t-shirt” and “hmmm, might want a sweater.” Being hot annoys me. It feels like a personal insult from the universe, and my attitude responds accordingly.
The reason I don’t just pack myself off to the Outer Hebrides is the incredible bounty of luscious fruit and plump veggies summer brings our way. Stone fruit, in particular, is a weakness of mine. Peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, cherries … any and all of them take my breath away. The kids and the husband love them, too: dessert at this time of year is often an exquisitely ripe peach or a fistful of dark cherries.
Sometimes, my cooking is inspired by a trip to the farmer’s market, desire to try a new technique, or a great sale on something special. This one? Well, it was my summer kitchen math.
Summer kitchen math goes something like:
93 degrees = too hot too cook = fast + single bowl + no stove.
I was also feeling indulgent and could not stop thinking about having dessert for dinner. So I came up with an excuse to do just that.
My beloved stone fruit takes center stage, along with crisp romaine lettuce, leftover roast chicken, and a touch of lemon thyme. I finished it with a drizzle of maple lemon dressing so delectable it made me want to lick the bowl.
Variations: If you enjoy dairy, crumble in a touch of bleu cheese. A handful of slivered almonds is also an excellent addition.
Peach, Cherry & Chicken Salad
- One head of romaine lettuce, washed
- 1/2 medium sweet onion such as Walla Walla
- Leftover chicken breast from roast chicken
- Four small peaches
- 1 cup dark cherries
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon thyme
- Bleu cheese (optional)
- Slivered almonds (optional)
Maple Lemon Dressing:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- With a sharp knife, thinly slice the lettuce into strips. Place in a large salad bowl.
- Roughly dice the onion; add to the salad bowl.
- Remove the chicken breast from the carcass.Slice in thin strips and add to the bowl.
- Cut the peaches in half, removing the pits. Slice each half into eighths (in other words, sixteen slices from each peach).
- Slice the cherries in half, removing the pits. Add the fruit to the salad bowl.
- Sprinkle the lemon thyme into the salad. Using your hands, gently toss the salad together. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Whisk vigorously together.
- Drizzle over the salad. If using optional blue cheese and/or almonds, add them now. Serve immediately.