I am leaving today for Holland. At 4 pm actually and, as usual, I still have to pack my bag and get myself organized for the trip. Some things never change.
I will be back in just over a week but wanted to post a quick recipe and say goodbye. I am really excited for this journey. I will be visiting my sister, Lisa, who is teaching youth film classes in Rotterdam for half a year. She and her boyfriend Paolo, who usually teach in Los Angeles, have been in Holland for about six weeks. They have an apartment and have fallen in love with their neighbourhood and are enjoying the thriving cultural scene.
I am excited to see them and explore both Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the short time that I will have there.
I can’t think of a better way to be introduced to a new country, city, neighbourhood. Lisa and Paolo have been in Rotterdam long enough to know where to find the best bread and cheese, some lovely restaurants to eat in, art galleries and theatres and they even have a couple of bikes at their disposal. I just can’t wait…
But, now, before I go I want to leave you with a wonderful winter salad. I actually have a bit of a thing for winter salads. This one in particular.
Unlike their summer counterparts that are almost always dominated by ripe, red tomatoes the winter salad is a more low key affair. Shades of pale green and white, accented by some jewel-like citrus fruit, dried fruits or toasted nuts, the winter salad is a thing of understated beauty.
Humble celery is the star of this salad. A vegetable that I feel is highly, highly underrated. In soup or braised in a bit of cream or simply sliced and tossed into a salad, I am a huge fan. It is fed to children smeared with peanut butter or is arranged on a vegetable platter next to the Ranch dressing but is very rarely given a starring roll.
Here it is paired with some crisp fennel and tossed in a pomegranate vinaigrette. Yes, this is the same vinaigrette from the recent quinoa and pear salad but I am pretty smitten with this dressing these days and I think it truly works beautifully here. Add in some lush Medjool dates, a hit of salty, nutty Parmesan cheese and some toasted pistachios and you have a salad that has character, crunch and can be enjoyed on it’s own for lunch or works beautifully alongside a grilled steak.
I will hopefully be posting some photos during my time away. I will absolutely be back in just over a week with some new Dutch inspired dishes!
Wish me luck with the plane ride, I am petrified to fly…
Celery and Fennel Salad with Medjool Dates and Parmesan Cheese
Recipe inspired by Melissa Rubel Jacobson’s version for Food and Wine
For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon of grainy mustard
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Fine grain sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 large shallot, peeled and finely chopped
For the salad:
1 bunch of celery, thinly sliced on the bias with a few celery leaves as well
1 large bulb of fennel, very thinly sliced on a mandolin or with a sharp knife
16 – 20 Medjool dates, pitted and sliced into thin strips
3 oz (85 g) Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
3/4 cup of toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
To make the vinaigrette:
In a small bowl whisk together the mustard, molasses, vinegar and salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil and the grapeseed oil and then stir in the chopped shallot. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine the celery, the sliced fennel (a few fronds if you like) and Medjool dates. Add in half of the cheese and toasted nuts. Season with salt and pepper and add in some of the vinaigrette. Toss to coat and continue to add in the vinaigrette until the salad is well dressed but not dripping in vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Top with the remaining cheese and pistachios.