Red and White Salad of Fennel and Cherries
5 Jun 2007

I did it. I got back on the horse. Or, at least, on the mandolin. This time VERY, VERY safely. But, there was just no way, despite the havoc it's created on my poor hand, that I can give up such a great device. It's just too useful, too irreplaceable. And dishes like this salad just could not exist without one. The idea for this salad came to me when I was looking at another photographer's work. Oddly, it wasn't a food photographer at all, but a children's portrait photographer. My friend Robert sent me a link to Audrey Woulard's portfolio, and her absolutely gorgeous child and family shots. Like Jinky Art, her work is mesmerizing. Her use of color, and the way she captures eyes is outstanding, and it got me to thinking about color and food, much in the same way that the chapter on cooking by color in Heidi's Super Natural Cooking did. All of a sudden, I was fixated on the idea of a snow white salad of shaved fennel dotted with juicy dark red cherries.

The idea grew as I went to the market and picked up not only a beautiful fennel bulb, but also a nice ball of jicama and a sweet Vidalia onion, all beautiful white veggies that would partner well for the salad... both the jicama and onion adding just a touch of sweetness to round out the slight anise flavor of the fennel. By the way, if you have never had a Vidalia onion, you don't know what you are missing. They may look like your typical big yellow onion, but they are so sweet and juicy you could almost bite into one like an apple. Almost, mind you. Don't go giving it a try, and then blaming me for it...
Anyway, back to the recipe. For the cherries, make sure you use really sweet cherries for this recipe. They don't have to be dark cherries, but they should be very fresh, juicy and flavorful. I was so excited with the picture in my head, that I had the music cranked and the doors open to let in the beautifulness of the day, and as I started to shave my produce, I also shaved my finger. So, the recipe had to wait a week. But, today, with finger still very much in bandage, I decided to brave my v-slicer once again. I'm so glad I did. Maybe the salad isn't worth losing a pinky finger over, but I certainly did enjoy the savory sweet combination for my lunch.
Red and White Salad Serves 2 as a side 1 lemon 1 fennel bulb 1 jicama root 1/2 small Vidalia onion 20 cherries 2 T honey 1 T rice wine vinegar 2 T olive oil 1 t fresh lemon thyme flake sea salt ground pepper (optional) Juice 1/2 the lemon into a medium bowl, and add some cold water. Trim any of the greens off the fennel, remove any tough outer leaves, and the core. Shave the fennel into 1/8 inch thick rounds. Place the rounds in the lemon juice water mixture to soak. Peel the thick brown skin from the jicama, and julienne. Add into the fennel. Give it a toss to coat in the lemon juice water. Remove the outer peel of the onion and shave to 1/8 thick. Add to the fennel/jicama mixture. Give it a toss to coat in the lemon juice water. In a separate bowl, whisk together a dressing of the juice from the remaining lemon, the honey, rice wine vinegar and olive oil. Drain the excess liquid from the fennel mixture, and add the dressing. Add the lemon thyme (leaves only, stems removed). Stir to coat. Cover and set aside.
Pit the cherries. One cool trick I've seen (in Martha Stewart Living) is to use a star-shaped pastry tip that is just a little bigger than the size of a cherry pit. Stick the tip on your finger, and then push it down from the top of the cherry just far enough to get past the pit. Give it a little turn, and pull up to remove the pit. It makes this job go very quickly. Serve by heaping the fennel mixture on to a plate and topping with the cherries and a bit of flake sea salt and ground pepper.

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