Arugula, fennel and blood orange salad
Finally, it's March. Though I’m still clinging to my cozy cable knits and boots, this month signals that the end of the dreary, cold and (in our case) wet winter is near. And I, for one, couldn't be more stoked.
Among family, friends and colleagues, I kept hearing people say that they were experiencing symptoms of winter blues. I also went through some ups and downs and had trouble hitting a creative stride. But I’ve always considered February the most uninspiring month. The holidays are past, the excitement is done and there’s never anything new at the farmer’s market. Good thing it’s a short one.
Spring, to me, is all about new beginnings. More so than January. Maybe it's because March also happens to be my birthday month (expect cake in a couple of weeks). And my name, given to me on this month nearly 31 years back, means reborn. It's fitting, really, since it seems I try to reinvent myself every couple of years...sometimes as frequently as every couple of weeks. It drives K crazy.
I started this new month with a trip to Louisville, a part of the country that seems midwestern in spirit, but southern in accent. I felt at home with the burly bearded men at the sports bar. I was there for a gathering of food writers, bloggers, recipe developers and chefs.
The weekend was a hit. I learned so much about this world of blogging that I've jumped into and made so many valuable connections, as well as a few new friends. While there were several highlights of the trip, the best was probably the moments when I got to sit on a plane by myself without a cranky toddler to entertain. I read. I looked out the window. I wrote a little. It was magical.
Now back in San Francisco, I'm fired up about new projects, longer days and fava beans. Definitely fava beans.
Of course, there will be things I'll miss when winter is officially over. Namely, blood oranges and peak-of-season pears. So to celebrate the end of winter and beginning of spring, as well as new beginnings here on my little corner of the internet, I bring you this bright, end-of-winter, hello spring salad.
For the dressing, I experimented with cardamom seeds for the first time, which I found at an Indian grocery store. They’re more subtle than the green cardamom pods, and apparently great for indigestion. If you don’t have cardamom seeds, you might be able to substitute one cardamom pod. And I know it's an extra step, but I highly recommend toasting the spices before grinding them. It really makes a huge difference in the flavor. The buttermilk can be omitted if you don’t have it, but I think it lends a creaminess that makes this that much more enticing.
For the salad, you can use any delicate, spicy green if you don’t have arugula. It might be really nice with something like watercress or radicchio.
For the dressing
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
⅛ teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon blood orange juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the salad
4 cups baby arugula
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 large watermelon radish, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
2 Medjool Dates, pitted and sliced
2 to 3 small blood oranges, peeled and cut into rounds
¼ cup toasted pistachios, chopped
In a small skillet over low heat, toast the fennel, cumin and cardamom seeds until fragrant. Transfer to a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar and grind until crushed. It doesn’t have to be a fine powder.
Transfer to a jar, add the remaining dressing ingredients and shake to combine.
Next assemble the salad. In a large salad bowl, toss together the arugula, fennel, radish, mint and dates. Pour half of the dressing over it and toss.
Place the oranges on top and pour the rest of the dressing over the oranges. Garnish with the pistachio and serve.