When I was growing up in Northern California near San Francisco, almost everywhere I walked there were wild fennel plants. Often I would pull off seeds and eat them as I passed by, being careful to check that they were fennel and not poisonous wild hemlock. They look very similar but the wild hemlock has red splotches of “blood” on the stems.
And so I grew up with that sweet anise flavor—one of those joys of being out in Nature.
And so the other day fennel caught my eye—as vegetables and fruits sometimes do—in my local natural food store, so I had to bring it home and savor that sweet licorice taste from my childhood.
I have to say, I’ve just been eating it plain like candy, it’s so sweet. But then I made this salad after I looked up traditional recipes. Fennel is very popular in Italy. I always wondered why they put fennel seeds in Italian sausage. It’s because it’s been growing all over the Mediterranean for centuries.
I just cut the tops off the fennel, sliced it very thin cross-ways with a sharp knife, then added sliced celery and cucumber, sliced black Greek olives, and finished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of Himalayan salt, and bits of feathery front. So good. Sweet and salty.
Here’s a link to an interesting site called Eat The Invaders: Fighting Invasive Species, One Bite at a Time. This post is about fennel.
As I write this, I’m sitting here eating the very bowl of cucumber noodles in the photo above, and they are delicious!
The first time I ever used a vegetable spiral slicer I made cucumber noodles.
They are fresh and crunchy and a delight to eat all spring and summer.
I have loved peanut sauce since the first moment I tasted it.
Here’s a very yummy quick version that can be used as a salad dressing or dipping sauce. You can modify it to your taste and dietary needs. And if you don’t eat peanuts, try making it with almond butter. You’ll still get the Asian flavor from the other ingredients.
As I grow older and wiser, learn more and live more and experience the benefits of good choices on my health, I find myself eating more and more salads.
But the salads I eat are not dull and boring! I’m having fun experimenting with how I can turn my favorite flavors into salad!
I also tend to eat the same salad for a while once I “discover” it. My current salad-of-the-moment salad is my Chinese salad, which I love so much i’ve been eating it almost daily for at least two months.
It’s an all-vegetable salad, but you can add any protein you like, if you want. For myself, I’ve learned I don’t need to eat protein at every meal. I eat a good protein breakfast to start my day, and by the time it gets to be evening, I’m happy to end my day with a big bowl of raw vegetables.
Two surprises came out of this salad.
One was how delicious avocados taste with soy sauce.
The other was finding Szachuan peppercorns. The flavor profile of the salad just isn’t complete without them.
Szechuan peppercorns are not really a pepper at all—they are the dried outer husks of the prickly ash shrub. They have a fragrant aroma that tastes floral to me, but it also. has the numbing sensation around the mouth like a pepper. Szechuan chefs routinely combine Szachuan peppercorns with chile peppers because they believe the numbing effect reduces the chile pepper’s heat, leaving diners free to appreciate the intense, fruity flavor of the chili pepper. But I like the Szachuan peppercorns all by themselves in this salad.
here’s a source for organic Szachuan peppercorns
Also be sure to get organic soy sauce, as the usual Chinese restaurant brands contain additives and preservatives and may be made with GMO soy.
I buy San-J Organic Tamari— Gluten Free Soy Sauce. The ingredients are certified organic and non-GMO verified.
Tamari is Japanese soy sauce that is made without wheat. Most soy sauces are made with about 50% soybeans and 50% wheat, All San-J Tamari is naturally brewed with 100% soybeans and no wheat and contain no artificial preservatives or additives. Here’s a lovely Japanese scroll that shows how tamari is made
Here’s the recipe. Of course, as many of these ingredients should be organic as you can find and afford.
A few years ago I saw a recipe for raw asparagus salad and tried raw asparagus for the first time. It is delicious!
It’s crisp like celery, and sweet. Very different from cooked asparagus.
I made this lovely salad yesterday for lunch, but it’s also fun to dip spears into your favorite dip or salad dressing.
Use this as a starting point for your own inspiration. Add other vegetables, seasonings, dressing. The raw asparagus will give a sweet crunch.
I like to cut raw asparagus spears on the bias when I make a salad (see photo below).
This is a very old recipe from Persia for festive cookies made for the Spring Equinox, called Nan-e Nokhodchi.
Chickpeas are also called “garbanzo beans.” You can purchase the flour at almost any natural food store or online. It may be labeled “chickpea” or “garbanzo.”
These are delicious and nutritious gluten-free cookies you can eat any time of year. The dough is very pliable and holds up well to cutting with a cookie cutter.
The traditional recipe calls for cutting the cookies in the shape of four-leaf clovers for luck and garnishing with slivered pistachios. I cut them in the shape of flowers and put a bit of colored icing in the center (natural food colors, of course). They are visually delightful and well-liked when I take them to springtime parties.
These are flavored with cardamom, but you could experiment with other flavourings.