After a wonderful three week vacation, I have returned to Boston to start a whole new adventure — graduate school. Who knows what this will do to my cooking habit… Will I have so many hours in the house that I can finally make some headway on my Cookbook Challenge? Or will the piles of books form a barricade between my study and the kitchen across the hall, severely affecting my ability to prepare any sustenance beyond Red Bull and Power Bars? Only time will tell.
Does that mean that today I have a spectacular three course meal to share — one that will hold everyone over until next May? Nope! We’ve got a heat wave going on in Boston, and I’m not turning on the oven for any reason! So instead, I am featuring another wonderful summer salad — one that laughs in the face of all the lettuce-obsessed acacia wood bowls out there. Rather than start with leafy greens and haphazardly add ornamental tomatoes or what have you, this salad rests on a far more flavorful and refreshing foundation.
When I was first introduced to this atypical salad — during a cooking course in Paris — I thought I would hate it. To me, fennel meant ‘licorice-flavored’ and white mushrooms were meant to be eaten cooked in a pound of butter, if at all. Yet somehow this combination just works. Simple, elegant and refreshing. To jazz it up a bit, though, I would consider adding some chopped hard-boiled egg or a drizzle of premium balsamic vinegar.
Shaved Fennel and Mushroom Salad
1 bulb fennel, cored then sliced as thinly as possible with a knife or mandoline
4 large white mushrooms, sliced as thinly as possible with a knife or mandoline
Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved with a vegetable peeler, to taste
Juice of 1/2 a large lemon (or more to taste)
Fleur du sel or other good sea salt, to taste
A couple of tablespoons of fruity, rich olive oil
Mix and toss ingredients together. Garnish with a couple of fennel fronds, if desired.