My Pandemic Diary, Entry #58

  • Fennel Orange Salad with Harissa and Yogurt Fennel Orange Salad with Harissa and Yogurt
  • Fennel Orange Salad with Harissa and Yogurt Fennel Orange Salad with Harissa and Yogurt

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #58

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

It’s Wednesday and it’s a beautiful, sunny, perfect day. There’s a bit of a breeze but it’s a day you could either wear shorts or a jacket. Mark and I did our walk this morning and it felt great doing about two brisk miles. He wore a sweater but I had on a pink baseball cap and a lightweight coat mostly so I could use its zipped pockets, one to hold my phone and a card case holding a bit of money and an I.D., the other with my keys and a folded-up just-in-case cloth shopping bag. As the weather gets warmer, I’ll have to pull out a small crossbody bag to replace my pockets so I can still keep my hands free.

This afternoon I have my Zoom French lesson and before it begins, I always like to do a bit of a warm-up so I can get the language into my ear before my teacher says “bonjour.”  It’s not unlike doing a few scales and arpeggios before a piano lesson. You don’t want to start cold.

Otherwise it’s a day like any recent other.

Cooking and Groceries 

Tonight’s supper will be an easy meal because my French lesson doesn’t end until 5:30 so I won’t have a lot of time for anything complicated. I’m going to make one of Mark’s and my favorite meals, a New York strip steak (a treat!) that I bought last week at Whole Foods, and a salad made primarily with frisée which I also bought at WF. I love this lacy, slightly bitter lettuce, even if it’s a bit messy to eat.

Tonight I’ll make a semi-authentic version of a classic Lyonnaise frissée aux lardons, meaning I’ll leave out the customary poached egg and because I don’t have slab bacon to make lardons, I’ll just use regular bacon cut into pieces that are larger than usual. I cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and cook it until it’s browned but not crisp, reserving the rendered bacon fat. I wash the frisée well (it can be sandy) and spin it twice so that it’s very dry. Tear the frisée into large bite-sized pieces and place it in a salad bowl, adding a generous handful of croutons. I will make my croutons from what remains of the rye bread I made this past weekend.

Make the dressing by combining 2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, a big pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper, and 3 tablespoons evoo and 2 tablespoons of the still-warm rendered bacon fat. Stir well and pour immediately over the frisée and croutons (enough to dress; don’t soak it) and then add the bacon pieces. Toss to combine and serve immediately. If you like – and I will do this tonight – add a big handful of halved cherry tomatoes and maybe a little red onion, sliced very thin. I guess it’s a faux frisée.

Last night’s dinner was also a protein with a salad. I pan-roasted a salmon filet and to go with it, I made a new recipe for a salad I found in the May-June issue of Milk Street that was based on one served in a London Middle Eastern restaurant called Coal Office. Milk Street called this salad “brashly delicious,” and oh my, it was indeed. It’s called Fennel-Orange Salad with Harissa and Yogurt. I’ve adapted their adaptation because I didn’t have every ingredient and to also make it a bit easier to assemble. Milk Street said this served 4 but Mark and I ate the whole thing.

2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced very thin (use a slicer to get the slices uniform and about 1/8” thick) so to get about 5 to 6 cups of sliced fennel
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 navel orange
1/4 cup evoo
1 tablespoon harissa paste, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1 sweet mini pepper or 1/2 red bell pepper (or more; I added a whole pepper), sliced thin
1/2 cup pitted olives, roughly chopped (I used kalamata but green would be good, too)
1/3 cup roasted almonds (I didn’t have them so I left them out)
1/2 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt (or more depending on how much fennel you’re using)
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint, torn if large (optional; I didn’t have any)

This salad is simply fabulous. The dressing alone is a triumph for its heat, sweet, and tang, but the combination of the sweet oranges with the fresh and slightly anise-tinged fennel, and the heat from the harissa with the creamy yogurt is amazing. It’s the kind of salad that will make a simple piece of fish (as we learned last night) or a plain roasted chicken thigh into a special meal. I’d make it again tonight if I hadn’t used all my fennel. Highly recommended.   

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough



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