I like to make a salad a meal, with many different textures, flavors that compliment or contrast, and things that crunch. It’s so much more satisfying to eat that way. With salad, you can go a million different ways, but you will get the best results if you use mostly things that are in season. This salad sort of felt like winter when I threw it together, so I like to call it a winter salad. It’s crunchy and cold and mild and sweet.
This salad has fennel in it. I have been reading this little vintage pamphlet (not the religious kind) that is all about salads called (appropriately) Good Housekeepings Book of Salads, Some of the suggestions are pretty hilarious, but the book is also full of good information and tips too. I learned how to cut fennel based on this book.
It discusses the best ways to cut tomatoes and fennel, how to store lettuces, and advises to “pick out crisp, young perky greens.” Well, if that isn’t good advice, I don’t know what is.
Vintage cookbooks are something I’ve got a bit of a collection of. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I like to collect things. I collect cake stands, metal trays, baskets, thermoses, and coffee cups. I’ll try to share more of my curations with you this year, they bring me such a joy.
So, I mentioned that this book talks about how to cut fennel. When I read this in bed one night (where I do all my good reading) it seemed like a revelation. When I put it into practice I wondered how I had never done it that way before. In this book there is a recipe for fennel salad that describes the process. Basically, if you’ve seen people cut an onion on the food network, then you know how to do this.
You start by trimming the top (the fronds end) of a rinsed off fennel bulb, leaving the root/bulb end in tact. Then you set the root end down on the cutting board, so that your newly cut end is up, facing you. Make parrallel cuts down, 1/2 inch apart, all the way to the root end but not cutting all the way through. Then make similar cuts, at a right angle to the first cuts, making a sort of grid of cut squares on the fennel bulb. Then, take the fennel and lay it on it’s side on the cutting board and start slicing. The chopped cubes of fennel fall off as you slice all the way down to the root. Magic, right? Yet totally logical.
Some things about these old cookbooks are like that. And others are… just plain weird. Among the weirder of the recipes I found in here: a recipe called Asparagus Hump (really?) which includes frozen asparagus on top of lettuce with a capered sour cream dressing, and another one called Green-Lima-and-Apple Salad, which is pretty much how it sounds with the addition of garlic french dressing.
But I do love these relics of our culinary history. There’s inspiration in these pages for me, ways to turn vintage into new again and ways to re-imagine the way women used to cook decades ago.
If you want to explore this past world of salads too, you can buy this vintage book from Amazon.
This salad has butter lettuce, red cabbage, celery, red bell pepper, green onion, fennel, toasted almond slices, goat cheese, and Caesar dressing. You could probably swap out the Caesar for any ranch-type of dressing you have, but the garlicky boost was really good in this salad combination. The veggies really stand up to sitting around too, if you make it for lunch in the morning it would still be crispy by the time you get to it. I do recommend waiting until just before eating to top with the toasted almonds.
- 6-8 leaves butter lettuce, washed and dried and roughly torn into bite sized pieces
- 1/3 cup shredded red cabbage
- 1/3 cup sliced celery
- 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fennel
- 1/8 cup sliced green onions
- 1/4 cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds
- 1/4-1/3 cup goat cheese crumbles
- 3 tablespoons Caesar dressing
- Place the lettuce leaves in a bowl.
- Top with the cabbage, celery, red bell pepper, fennel, onions and goat cheese.
- Pour the dressing all over the salad.
- Sprinkle the almonds over the top of the salad and serve.