Last week Julia Moskin published a recipe that almost everyone I know is trying. It’s a baked entire head of cauliflower that is doused with an almond herb sauce at the end. I think what everyone finds so attractive about this recipe is that is sort of adheres to all the good resolutions we made last week (eat better, eat healthier) but doesn’t feel like you are doing without. In other words this is not a tall glass of cauliflower juice. But it is 100% vegetable and probably has less calories than you think.
But the part of Julia’s article that spoke to me the loudest was her new mantra: Don’t eat less, just cook more. In other words, stay away from restaurants, take out and prepared foods and you’ll already be ahead of the game. Don’t focus on calorie or point counts. Just make wholesome food in your own kitchen and it’s a win win.
I’m assuming that applies for the mayo topped fried recipe I posted last week (yay! no guilt!). But I tend to think that most of us are probably craving something a tiny bit lighter to grace our tables this month? So here is my January go-to lunch salad. And as you can see, it’s not sad at all.
It is basically a riff on a tired and true salad that I’ve written about many times and come to depend upon for crunch and brightness during the dark days of winter (although, here in Rome it’s been plenty bright lately)
This salad has three main elements: Fennel, citrus and olives. Crunch, tart and briny. I usually make it with oranges and black olives. But lately I’ve been able to get my hands on lovely pink grapefruit and so have gone with that. And instead of the very intense, almost smokey, olives I usually get from Gaeta, I’ve been chopping up a few big green Cerignola olives from Puglia.
But the thing that’s really upped my game on this salad is the bottle of Agrumato olive oil Rolando gave me for Christmas. It’s a traditional Abruzzese technique of running a load of lemons through the end of the olive press, along with the last olives. The result is the yummiest combination of olive and lemon you can imagine. I pour it all over the salad, along with salt and pepper, and it’s just about perfect.
Feel free to play around with the citrus and olive part of this salad. If you can get your hands on blood oranges, they are not only delicious but look stunning. And while I usually use olives, I’ve also played around with other types of cured vegetables, like capers and even pickled onions.
But do keep one thing in mind as you make it through January (and the rest of the year actually): Don’t eat less, just cook more.
- 1 large head of Fennel
- 1 grapefruit
- 6 large green olives (Cerignola type)
- Juice of half lemon
- Olive oil
- Agrumato Lemon Olive oil
- salt, pepper
- Cut the fennel in half, lengthwise, through the core. Pry off the outer layer, which tends to be stringy and tough. Place the half bulb flat side down, on a cutting board, and then using a sharp knife, thinly slice. (see this video for details)
- Lay the fennel on a pretty platter.
- Using a sharp knife cut away the peel and pith from the grapefruit. Make sure you get all the white parts, since they are bitter. Slice then chop the grapefruit into small chunks. Skater on top of fennel
- Take the pits out of the olives and roughly chop. Add to salad.
- Add salt and a good grinding of black pepper.
- Squeeze lemon over all, then drizzle as much olive oil and agrumato oil as you think you’d enjoy. Toss and serve.
You can find the Agrumato olive oil at Zingermans but I also love the oils from Marina Colonna that they also carry. Bella di Cerignola olives are usually available from Gustiamo, but they seem to be out of stock at the moment. I’m sure they’ll be getting more in soon.