I don’t remember what cookbook this was inspired by, but it remains one of the bright moments in a wonderful weekend six years ago. It had been a long winter at work and I needed to recharge. My friend Cliff and I jumped in the car and headed to his home near the coast in Delaware for a weekend of cooking.
Friday night after leaving the city, we grabbed dinner on the road, and arrived for an evening spent pouring through cook books over several bottles of wine. With our menu planned – a random collection of things that sounded delicious and fun – we went to bed.
The rest of the weekend was pure joy and relaxation. Lazy hours combing stores for the perfect ingredients, a quick stop at a cooking store for a new tool or two, and many hours in the kitchen, prepping, peeling, chopping and cooking. We would talk through the perfect plating for each dish and eat them, one-by-one, as they were finished.
The weekend was just two days – we drove home Sunday night – but it seemed like a month. I still remember waking up to see the sun shining through the fields out back, ready for spring planting. Hot cups of coffee in the cold morning kitchen. A lot of laughter, and good food.
Shaved Fennel, Mushroom and Parmesan Salad
Get your mandoline out for this one. While you can make a perfectly serviceable salad with some deft knife work, there is a delicate texture and light balance that can only be achieved by slicing the ingredients paper thin.
Two of us devoured this last Sunday night, but it would easily serve four as a side or first course.
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1/4 cup lemon juice – about 1 lemon
- Olive oil – the good stuff!
- 1 fennel bulb, tops removed, greens reserved.
- 6 large white button mushrooms
- 2-3 ounces great quality Parmesan cheese
- Start the dressing: mix the shallot in a bowl with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Set aside.
- Cut the fennel bulb in half, cutting from top to bottom. Remove the tough core at the base.
- Slice the tough bases off the mushroom stems.
- Using your mandolin, shave the fennel and mushrooms paper thin. For the fennel, shave the bulb from top to bottom, not sideways. For the mushrooms, slice sideways, so you get cross sections of the mushrooms.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel the Parmesan into thin shavings.
- Chop some of the reserved fennel fronds – the fine, green bits – and toss one tablespoonful with the fennel ,mushroom and Parmesan.
- Finish the dressing by whisking olive oil in a gentle stream. About 1/2 cup. Taste it along the way by dipping in a little fennel and mushroom. If it is too sharp, add a little more oil, if it gets too fatty, add a little more lemon juice.
- Serve mounded on a plate, garnished with a small spring of fennel fronds.