Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Heirloom Tomato Fennel Salad with Fennel Tahini Dressing

Usually when salads get dressed at casa M in the World, they're dressed in vinaigrettes, light and airy, sometimes spicy, sometimes honeyed. But here we are at the very tail end of summer, and although some delicious heirloom tomatoes are still peeking out of the corner of stalls at local farmer's markets, the air is crisp, the wind has a bite to it, and it just seems like everything, including salads, needs to be a little sturdier, a little more substantial.

But instead of turning to the heavier mayo-based dressings out there, I thought I'd go a more savory route - perhaps some creamy tahini? - and balance it out with fresh flavors like mint and fennel. And of course, somebody's gotta eat those last heirloom tomatoes of the season...

Heirloom Tomato Fennel Salad

1 cup shredded spinach
1/2 red onion (should make about a cup of shaved onion)
1 small bulb  fennel (should make about a cup of shaved fennel)
1 small heirloom tomato
1/2 cup fennel fronds for garnish

(serves 2 as an appetizer or 1 as an entree)

Fennel Tahini Dressing

1 large clove garlic
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 cup loosely packed mint
2 tbsp lemon juice

(this makes about 3/4 cup of dressing, but the salad requires only 1/4 cup - you'll have extra for other salads during the week or it even makes a really great chutney/dip!)

Slice the onion thinly - use a mandoline (careful!) if you have one for even slices. Set aside in a bowl of ice cold water. This takes away some of the pungency of the onion, leaving a much milder flavor. If you prefer more of a bite to your onion, then skip the ice water bath.

Slice the fennel to the same thinness as the onion. Shred the spinach or chop roughly. 

In a food processor blend together all the ingredients of the dressing until them come together into a creamy paste.

Combine the shredded spinach, sliced fennel, and drained sliced onion. Add in the chopped tomato. Dress with 1/4 cup of the Tahini Fennel dressing, garnish with the fennel fronds, and gobble down rapidly. 

Ah. Now that's an early fall salad.

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