Fennel and Tomato Salad
Car rides with Walt continue to be horrendous. Occasionally we’re gifted a scream-free trip, where he’ll play with one of those crunchy baby toys and/or glance out the window. Very, very occasionally he’ll fall asleep. Mostly, it’s just awful, with non-stop screaming that continues until he gags on his tears. To avoid this, we stick to short trips during the week - to the shops, kinder, ballet or swim class and back home. On the weekend we might venture a little further, with Ben squeezed in the back between the two car seats. He’ll entertain Walt with a toy and give an exceptional rendition of Old MacDonald, with Joan yelling out which animal Old MacDonald had on his farm (spoiler alert: it’s always a duck). All this is to say, for some time we haven’t been able to visit Transition Farm to collect vegetables. You might recall me speaking about Transition Farm; for years we were CSA members. I even spent a few seasons farming one day a week, in an attempt to deepen my knowledge of where food comes from and what it needs to grow. Alas, 40 minutes there and 40 minutes home is just too far on a week day. For now, at least.
Last month we got to enjoy a box filled with vibrant Transition Farm goodies. My parents were out of town, you see, and didn’t want to waste their bounty (they get a box each week), so they gave it to us. This got me thinking two things: 1) I should ask my folks to collect a box for us every week and meet them part of the way to cut down the travel time (why I didn’t already think of that solution, I have no idea), and, 2) there really is nothing like good quality produce. Inside the box were cobs of corn, a bright orange capsicum, pepper padrons, beans, more capsicum, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, basil and tomatoes - teeny tiny red and orange ones, and giant black (black!) ones. There were also two bulbs of fennel. The first was eaten fairly promptly, as Joan was curious to see how it tasted; while the second sat in the fridge for a good few weeks, hiding under a carton of sprouts Joan had asked me to buy at the shops (yet refused to eat when I served them to her). A couple of weeks, when Ben was cooking steaks on the BBQ, I sliced the forgotten fennel (which seemingly hadn’t lost any of its integrity) and placed it in a bowl. I covered it with a few good sloshes of white wine vinegar and let it sit for ten or so minutes, before adding chopped tomatoes (from our garden! It’s a miracle!), some extra virgin olive oil and a scattering of mixed dried herbs (a Sicilian blend gifted to me by my mum, which included oregano, basil, parsley and thyme), along with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. It was a simple, refreshing salad, most definitely deserving of a spot on the blog. Ben agreed, as did Joan, despite the fact that she barely touched her serve. She was far too interested in the corn.
Fennel and Tomato Salad
Note: use the best produce you can find, as this will influence the overall deliciousness of the salad. If you don’t have mixed dried herbs, substitute dried oregano (ideally the whole dried plant sort that looks like this).
1 fennel bulb
1/2 punnet good quality, sweet cherry tomatoes or 1 plump, vine-ripened tomato
1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon good quality extra virgin olive oil
A scattering of mixed dried herbs (see note above)
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Optional: sliced olives
Method: thinly slice the fennel, wash it to remove any dirt, then dry it and place in a bowl. Pour the vinegar over the fennel and let it sit for 10 or so minutes. Chop the tomatoes and place on top of the fennel. Add olives if using. Drizzle the oil then season to taste with the herbs, sea salt and pepper.