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)
- Slice the fennel and place in a large bowl.
- Wash, dry and grate the zest from the orange. Place in a small bowl.
- Add to the zest the lemon juice, salt, olive oil, harissa, and sugar and whisk with a fork to combine.
- Cut the skin off of the orange by using a knife to first slice off the top and bottom and then follow the orange’s contours to slice off both the skin and the white pith. Cut the orange in half going top to bottom or pole to pole, then slice half-moons, about 1/4-inch thick each.
- Add the sliced orange, pepper, olives and almonds to the fennel. Toss to combine.
- Re-whisk the dressing and pour over the bowl with the fennel combination. Toss to coat.
- Dollop the yogurt onto a platter and schmear it with the back of a spoon. Mound the dressed salad on top of the yogurt. Sprinkle with the fresh mint if you’re using it.
- Serve so that each portion gets both salad and some of the yogurt.
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.