Friday, October 2, 2009

Bienvenido, primavera

Or, A Salad For All Seasons (with apologies to Robert Bolt)

Buenos Aires seems to be fighting with itself, as to whether or not it is ready for spring. The first day of the season, officially the 21st of last month, was everything spring is supposed to be: sunny, warm, slightly breezy, men in short sleeves and women in sun dresses, and children eating ice cream with renewed gusto.

Since then, the city has dropped down to almost-freezing weather, fraught with heavy winds and cloudy skies, only to bound back up to sunshine. For every beautiful, freckle-season day, there are two with storm clouds and gray rain.

This makes sense to me, when I think of September as being March -- a month I've always been wary of. October is tantamount to April, which I hope will bring sturdier sun. Mentally trading pumpkins and hot cider for daffodils and iced tea, though, is leaving me just as confused as the weather here.

Today was one of the Sunny Days, fresh and bright and full of flower vendors whistling at pretty girls. I played dress up, putting on my long pink raincoat and unnecessarily large sunglasses, and went to the indoor market in my neighborhood. Nothing cheers me up like vegetable shopping -- retail therapy with health benefits, I suppose. I was eager for spring produce, but the selection was still on this side of winter: root vegetables, dark greens, citrus. So, I decided to compromise: lunch would be made up of the staples of colder weather, but made bright with orange (both color- and flavor-wise) and ginger. Oh, and cilantro. Lots of cilantro.

This is a simple salad, but fresh, and functionally so, for most any time of the year.

Carrot and Fennel Salad with Orange and Ginger

I suggest slicing the fennel as thinly as possible; its flavor is assertive. If you've got a mandoline, all the better to slice the carrots with, as well. I think the salad would be prettier, presentation-wise, if the carrots were in thin, elegant rounds. But no worries -- even if you've just got a small steak knife and a grater, like me, you'll do just fine.

1 small fennel bulb
1 small carrot
1/2 very juicy orange (to yield about 3 or 4 tablespoons of juice)
1/2 less juicy lime (to yield about 1 tablespoon of juice)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot, diced
1 small knob of fresh ginger, grated
fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper

Thinly slice the fennel. Grate the carrot coarsley. Combine the two vegetables, and set aside.

To make the dressing, combine the orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, shallot, and ginger. Toss the fennel and carrot with the dressing. Combine cilantro and parsley to taste. (For instance, I simply scissored a few handfuls of leaves over the salad, tasting as I went along. This salad calls for a heady bite of fresh herbs, so if you're not a cilantro fan, try adding a hefty amount of parsley.) Salt and pepper to taste, as well -- and presto! You've got a sort-of spring lunch.

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