When I was in Italy few weeks ago, in the heart of Tuscany (just writing about it makes my soul drool), it was humid and HOT. I refused to eat or walk faster than 2 miles per hour. We went to town’s “Centro” and sat outside a crowded Café for a break. I know its weird but I ordered a cappuccino. hello? don’t ask. While sipping my delicious drink, I looked at the menu and spotted the word Fennel (yup, it was in English). “Salad of fennel and red grapefruit in a house vinaigrette with red whole peppercorns”. Fennel and grapefruit? don’t remember having that combination before so why not.
The salad was crisp and delicious. Small pieces red grapefruit, just a few, on top of a very thin sliced fennel, drizzled with shiny yellow dressing and whole red peppercorns add a pop of color. Loved the presentation. I added lots of fresh black pepper then totally went for it. It was delicious, refreshing and wet. The Mr. looked at my salad thinking “I should have ordered that too” (I knew it!). Slowly I moved the plate to the center and rolled my eyes. After a couple of bites he forgot that the salad was supposed to be shared. I ordered another one. This time I made sure the plate was much closer to me.
I promised to make it back home and I did, but with some changes of my own. No whole peppercorns because they made me choke twice (really!), when I was there. I used ground mix of peppercorns instead. Juice of red grapefruit instead of cut pieces (only because I didn’t have enough for the salad, so feel free to choose), melon and this season’s star – figs. I even added sliced pear, why not.
You can serve this salad as a meal if you like. Your taste buds and your eyes will notice everything in it. It’s big on contrast and way more interesting and festive. Dramatic in presentation, light dressing keeps business fresh with lots of subtle flavors, even the fruit flirt with the fennel. Try to say that five times 😉
It’s pretty sexy salad too don’t you think?
1 large fennel head, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 pear, thinly sliced
1 cup of cantaloupe, cut to pieces
2 figs, cut to wedges
Juice of half red grapefruit
Kosher salt and ground mixed peppercorns to taste
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp honey mustard
1/4 olive oil
Place fennel and pear in a large bowl. Make the vinaigrette: in a bowl combine all the ingredients except for the oil. Using a whisk and a quick motion drizzle the olive oil into the bowl, whisking constantly until emulsion is formed. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette but leave some for later. Serve the salad on a platter. Garnish with figs. Drizzle a little of the vinaigrette on the salad. Sprinkle ground mix pepper (optional).