Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Salad days

In This Issue
 A note for Hotmail readers Why some of you may be having trouble reading this bulletin.
 Salad days Two offbeat but simple salad ideas.
 Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives Links to previous articles.
 Let us hear from you! You're invited to talk back.
 Administrivia Change E-mail address, frequency, format or unsubscribe.
A note for Hotmail readers

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Salad days

Salads aren't just for steamy summer days any more. Whether you think of a salad as a light meal in itself, a starter course American-style, or a palate-cleansing plate toward the end of the meal as in the European tradition, there's much to like in a simple dish that features crisp greens, a tasty dressing and something interesting on top to add texture and variety.

This week let's take a quick look at two salad variations I've tried recently: A slaw-like concoction with an Asian accent, substituting crisp, anise-scented fennel bulb in place of the traditional cabbage; and a quick creamy dressing from Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way, so simple that it's easier to make than to explain.

Both salads work fine as is, or can be built up to make dinner salads by adding toppings. Try chilled peeled shrimp or fried calamari with the fennel slaw, and just about any topping from bacon or ham to grilled chicken (or vegetarian options like cheese, artichoke hearts, olives or hard-boiled eggs) with the Pepin dressing.

Pepin's quick cream dressing

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

Salad greens for two
Black pepper
2 tablespoons (30ml) heavy cream
2 teaspoons (10ml) red-wine vinegar


1. Rinse and dry salad greens of your choice and, if necessary, cut or tear them into bite-size pieces. I think this creamy dressing works best with firm lettuce like romaine or even iceberg lettuce; if you choose fragile greens like field lettuces or mesclun, dress at the last moment before serving.

2. Put the cream in your salad bowl and season it with salt and black pepper to taste. Stir briskly with a fork or small whisk. You don't want to whip the cream, only to work in enough air to make it frothy. Stir in the vinegar until it's incorporated. You'll end up with a creamy, sweet and just gently tangy blend, somewhat like a buttermilk dressing but not as sour. (Feel free to experiment with proportions; I used a little less vinegar on my first effort and a little more on the second, and felt that the 3-to-1 cream-to-vinegar ratio recommended here gave the best result.) Put in the salad greens, toss and serve.

Fennel slaw

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

Medium-size fennel bulb
Sweet red onion, enough to make 1/2 cup shredded
1 cucumber
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
Dash hot sauce
Black pepper


1. Fennel used to be difficult to find, but it's increasingly available at better grocers and produce markets. It may be sold as "anise" or "finocchio," but under any name you're looking for a crisp, pale greenish-white, gently licorice-scented bulb about the size of a baseball, with pale green, feathery fronds. Trim off any brownish bits and the tough root end and remove the green fronds; for this salad you want only the whitish bulb. Using a sharp chef's knife or even a mandoline, cut the bulb into slices as paper-thin as you can get them. An average-size bulb should yield about two to three cups.

2. Slice the red onion paper-thin and mix it gently with the sliced fennel in a large bowl. Peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise, and scoop out and discard the seeds. Slice paper-thin and add to the fennel and onion mix.

3. Make a light vinaigrette by whisking the peanut oil, lime juice, soy sauce and hot sauce into an emulsion (I like to use a strongly flavored roasted-peanut oil with plenty of peanut flavor). Stir into the vegetables, add salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour or so to give the flavors time to blend. Check seasonings and serve.

MATCHING WINE: Although the conventional wisdom advises against serving wine with salads because vinegar and acids "war" with wine, both of these dishes were designed with wine in mind. If you make them as dinner salads, consider the topping in making your wine choice, selecting a rich white if you add shrimp to the slaw, for instance, or perhaps a fruity red with a grilled-chicken or cheese variation on Pepin's creamy blend. For what it's worth, when I built the fennel salad as a side dish with blue-cheese-laced lamb burgers, I picked a hearty red Rhone - Domaine Réméjeanne 2003 Chevrefeuilles Côtes du Rhône - to match the burgers, but it also fared surprisingly well with the aromatic fennel.

Want a copy that's easy to use in the kitchen? You'll find a simple, plain-text version of these recipes, suitable for printing, online at

If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this recipe or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by our Food Lovers' Discussion Group, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "FoodLetter: Salad days."

Click the REPLY button on the forum page to post a comment or response. (If your E-mail software broke this long link in half, take care to paste it all back into one line before you enter it in your Web browser.)

Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Pepin's tuna-stuffed tomato (Oct. 14)

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Thursday, Oct. 21, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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