Food for Thought: Figs and Fennel

The market runs daily in Nice, at the Cours Saleya, a large square in the old town that is across the street from the sea. Pastel coloured houses encircle Cours Saleya, chairs and tables spill out from ground floors where cafés have settled in.

The market sells much (and then some) of what I can find at the local grocery store. A whole rainbow of fruits and vegetables are on offer. There are the purple artichokes, the (fresh!) figs and the fennel. The herbs, perhaps plucked from the paths that criss-cross the Provence countryside. That Parmesan cheese that cannot be resisted. And the nuts, so many different kinds. I settled for almonds and walnuts.

And so, with the fennel, the figs, the walnuts and some fresh thyme, I threw together a salad. It turned out to be just as pleasant on the palate as it was on the eye. Here is recipe (for two). It takes about 10 minutes to prepare.

You will need 4 fennels, 8 figs, 6 radishes, a handful of crunched walnuts, thyme, extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Preheat the broiler (or 150 to 200 C).

Wash and clean your fennel by cutting off any leaves and the hard bit at the bottom. Slice the fennel lengthwise into thin-but-not-too-thin pieces, put them into an over-proof dish, sprinkle with some of the olive oil and vinegar. Slide the whole thing underneath the broiler. Depending on the broiler, it should not take more than 5-10 minutes for the fennel to be ready. You want to keep an eye on the fennel and turn the fennel slices from time to time to ensure even cooking. Once the fennel starts to get golden and brown around the edges, it is ready.

While the fennel is in the oven, wash and slice your figs and radishes, put them in a bowl. You add the fennel slices to the bowl once the fennel comes out of the oven. Finish your salad by topping it with the walnut crunches, the thyme, 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and tossing the whole mixture. Serve with Merlot and fresh baguette.

Bon appétit!

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