“You’ve got to serve something red, white and blue,” says Valerie, a U.S.Department of State employee by day, farmer on nights and weekends (God, I love DC!). We were discussing the catering menu I was planning in celebration of a friend’s recent citizenship.
“What’s blue besides blueberries,” I thought. “Besides, they’re not locally in season yet.”
So, I settled for red and white, 2/3 of the way there. My homage to the salad Oscar Tschirky created for the Waldorf Hotel would have to make up the balance. Sweet strawberries replaced apple, while crisp fennel stood in for celery. Toasted pepitas lent warmth in place of walnuts and a sweet, light vinaigrette displaced heavier mayonnaise as the dressing.
Add a handful of the June’s first tart-sweet blueberries, and you may just have this season’s superlative summer salad.
Strawberry and Shaved Fennel Salad
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/8 tsp Dijon mustard
- pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 cup grape seed or vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup pepitas*
- 2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
- 2 fennel bulbs thinly sliced
- 1 tbs fennel fronts, finely chopped
- 2 mint leaves, finely chopped
*Pepitas are raw pumpkin seeds. Smooth and green, you will find them with other packaged nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Substitute toasted sunflower seeds if you can’t find them.
- Combine shallot, sugar, mustard and salt in a bowl with vinegar. Whisk together.
- Toast pepitas in a small skillet over medium heat, tossing often to prevent burning. Once you hear them start to pop, toast for a minute longer until at least 1/3 of the seeds are browned on 1 side.
- Combine strawberries, fennel, fennel fronds and mint in a separate bowl. Toss together.
- Whisk oil into dressing to form a creamy emulsion.
- Season dressing to taste and toss with salad.
- Top with toasted pepitas.
- Can be served alone or over greens like baby spinach or butter lettuce.