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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

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Fennel 101

Fennel 101

Working on photo sets is often a battle of the bulge: catering and craft services sometimes don’t offer enough healthy choices, or, tempt you with enough treats and goodies that you ignore the more healthful options. Opting for the iceberg salad (hold the dressing) over the gravy-smothered mashed potatoes requires an iron will, and sometimes ours is more feathery in composition.

On evenings at home and during the weekends, we try to go back to our smart eating ways and make food that is both good for our bodies and our palates. We’re both firm believers that eating a salad doesn’t have to be a punishment or a “diet” menu item, but rather an opportunity to take advantage of great fresh produce and put something in our bellies that won’t  make them expand.

This salad has quinoa, a grain that will satisfy your complex carb craving and deliver protein. It’s lightly toasted to enhance its naturally nutty flavor, then cooled down and tossed with crisp fennel, tart Granny smith apple, buttery avocado, fiery serranos, and a simple vinaigrette that ties it all together.

FENNEL, APPLE, QUINOA, AND AVOCADO SALAD

Serves 4

For the Quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove minced
1 cup red or white quinoa, or a combination of both
1 teaspoon salt
Water

– Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan until shimmering. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to small bowl.

– Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the quinoa, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and toasted, about 5 minutes. Return the shallot and garlic to the pot, add the salt, and add enough water to cover the quinoa by about 2 inches. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Drain the quinoa, return it to the pot, cover it, and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Cool completely. (To speed up the cooling process, spread the quinoa out onto a rimmed baking sheet.)

– The quinoa may be prepared up to 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container, refrigerated.

For the Dressing
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from about 2 lemons
1 tablespoon honey
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

– Whisk the mustard, lemon juice, honey, and garlic together in medium bowl. While constantly whisking, drizzle in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow dressing to sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature to allow flavors to meld. Whisk dressing to recombine prior to using.

For the Salad
Juice of 1 lemon
1 fennel bulb
1 Granny Smith apple
1 firm but ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
1 to 2 serrano peppers (to taste), ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced

– Fill a medium bowl with cold water and add the lemon juice. Trim off and reserve the fennel fronds, thinly slice the stems, trim and discard the bottom of the bulb then cut it in half and thinly slice it. Place the fennel pieces and slices in the acidulated water to prevent it from oxidizing.

– Cut the apple in half, remove the cores (use a 1 teaspoon measure for easy coring) and thinly slice. Drain the fennel thoroughly, add the apple and avocado, and drizzle with come of the vinaigrette, gently tossing to combine. Add the peppers and quinoa and additional vinaigrette to taste. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with reserved fennel fronds.

Fennel 101