2 Great Dishes with Fennel

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We went to a friend’s house for dinner last night.  I was to bring a fennel salad with burrata, yam casserole,  potato avocado salad and a no-bake mango cheesecake.  The ingredients for the dishes were prepared and packed in separate containers.  Then I took a shower, blow-dried my hair, put on makeup, got dressed and changed a few pairs of shoes before settling on a pair of Alexander Wang heels.  That was when I looked at the clock and realized that we were going to be late.  In the rush to leave the house, I left the pickled red onion for the potato salad and the burrata for the fennel salad in the fridge at home.  The mangos that I used to make the mango cheesecake were not as flavorful as the ones from Malaysia where I first made the cake.  I’m afraid that I have kind of ruined the Hungry Empress’s reputation.  

So today I remade the less-than-ideal dishes to redeem myself at least in my own mind.  I wish I could switch the dishes from last night like how people exchange gifts that don’t fit them on Boxing Day.

I received a beautiful two-toned ceramic serving bowl from my friend, whose house we were at last night.  I used it to serve my potato salad with the right ingredients for lunch. So Amy, if you read this, this is what I meant to bring yesterday.

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Potato Salad with Fennel, Avocado and Eggs in Greek Yogurt Dressing

Ingredients for the salad:

10 medium red skin potatoes, boiled and diced with skin on or off

1 tender fennel bulb, rough parts discarded and chopped

3 to 4 avocados, diced

4 to 5 boiled eggs

Pickled red onion from 1/2 red onion

Fresh lemon juice to coat the diced

Ingredients for pickled onion:

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup apple red wine vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon salt

Ingredients for the dressing:

1 cup Fage or other Greek yogurt

2 to 3 tablespoons pale mustard

2 stocks green onions, minced (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

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Preparation:

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and set aside.

To make pickled onion, bring vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add onion, bring to boil again and then remove from heat, and let sit 4 to 5 minutes; drain. Drain and let pickled onion cool.  Pickled onion should be crispy.  Don’t over cook it or let it stay in the hot brine for too long.

Boil the eggs for 5 minutes (counting from after the water boils) and rinse with cold water.  Do not over boil the egg. The yolks will get flaky if you overcook them.  Peel and cut into quarters.

Cook the potatoes in a pot of water to al dente and cut into bite size.

Cube the avocados and chop the fennel bulb.  To prevent the avocado from browning, coat the cubes with a little fresh lemon juice.

Toss all salad ingredients with the dressing.  Garnish with fennel fronds and serve at room temperature.

The recipe makes 8 to 10 serving.  You can easily half the recipe for fewer people.

I made a similar potato salad with chili peppers in the dressing when I was in Malaysia.  You can check out that recipe by clicking on the link here.

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Fennel Salad with Burrata:

Ingredients:

2 medium heads fennel, cored and very thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving

6 strips lemon zest, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon lemon juice

8  to 12 oz burrata

Fennel fronds for garnish

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Preparation:

Place fennel, oil, zest and lemon juice in a dish; season with salt and pepper. Let stand 10 to 20 minutes.  Just before serving, arrange fennel salad on a large platter. Cut burrata into halves or quarters and lay on fennel. Drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired.  Garnish with fennel fronds.

The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of mint leaves, but I found the salad delicious without it.

Another Slow Lazy Saturday

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I love the slowness of Saturday mornings, especially when Peter is not on call and the girls are either away or still sleeping.  This morning, I made us Mexican omelette with red jalapeño, cilantro, avocado and Mexican cheese, and Peter made us coffee with condensed milk. 

Many years ago — I think it was in the mid 90s — I read a book called Slowness by Milan Kundera about the sensuality that had been lost with the incredible speed with which everything seemed to be done in contemporary life.  The idea resonated with me then.  How can anything be sensual if we are only concerned with efficiency?  Since the 90s, we have sped up much more with the constant connectivity and the feeling that opportunities might be lost if we don’t check our emails the second it arrives, or keep doing 10 different things all at once.  Everyday, I see people checking their phones at stop signs or red lights.  And sometimes, I do it myself. 

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Today, Peter and I took our time eating, glancing at the headlines of the morning paper, talking about whatever came to mind, or simply enjoying the food in silence.  Food tastes so much better when you eat slowly, savoring every bite.  We talked about Ida, a stunning Polish film that we watched together last night.  Compared to most film and TV shows seen on the screen today,  Ida was striking and indelible in its stillness, simplicity and sparseness of words.  The film looked cold and grey, yet it was boiling with deep emotions.  This film will stay with me for a very long time, while I have forgotten so many seemingly exciting spectacles the minute I finished watching them.  Speed is never good for remembering.  Stillness.  That’s what’s missing in the speed of today’s life.  And silence.

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Still from Ida

Speaking of stillness and silence, I want to share with you a Naruda poem called Keeping Quiet — an ode to stillness in this busy and sped-up life. 

KEEPING QUIET

by Pablo Neruda

*

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.

*

For once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.

*

It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.

*

Fisherman in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would look at his hurt hands.

*

Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.

*

What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death.

*

If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.

*

Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.

Pablo-Neruda

Naruda

Mexican Omelette

Ingredients for each omelette:

2 large eggs + 2 egg whites (beaten with a pinch of salt)

olive oil cooking spray

1/4 cup cilantro, minced

1/4 cup Mexican cheese blend

1/2 red jalapeno, minced

1/4 avocado, diced

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

Spray non-stick pan with oil on medium high heat.  Pour egg mixture into pan and let it cook for 15 to 20 seconds.  Add all the vegetable and cheese on top of the egg and cook for another minute.  Using spatula and fold the omelette into a roll.

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