I can't understand how it is the middle of June! It seems like March and April were here just yesterday, and now June has snuck up on me with July in tow. With warmer weather on its way, clothing becomes smaller and bikini season officially starts. This means that I put on a bathing suit and instantly feel the urge to cut back on calories and desserts. (Notice I said 'cut back' not 'cut out.' Please, lets be real here. No one should ever cut desserts out of their diet.) Plus, healthy eating is always a good thing in my book, bikini season or not.
So it was in this mindset, that I decided I would post a set of So Cal Summer Salads. I had no real plan for this, other than that I wanted veggies, lots of them, and maybe a sprinkling of fruits, a little bit of nuts, and possibly some cheese. Nuts and cheese can be included in my salads because they are good fats, of course. :) As I was thinking this, fate intervened. Almost as if on cue, the June issue of Bon Appetit appeared in my mailbox chock full of great summer salads. Each salad looked tastier, fresher, and more colorful than the next; to me, these are the great powers of the almighty salad.
When I was leafing through the magazine (translated: obsessively pouring over each recipe with drool running down my chin), this salad with arugula and fennel really appealed to me. Arugula runs neck-in-neck to tie with butter lettuce as my favorite, and fennel has made a delicious debut in my life in recent years. I wasn't entirely sure about the tangy apricots, but the lovely pale orange color is too beautiful to resist!
I bought all the ingredients to make this salad, but then decided to make an impromptu drive out to Las Vegas for the weekend to visit a good friend from college. So naturally, I packed up all the salad stuffs, plus my trusty 7" Shun, and drove out to Sin City. Maybe this seems weird to you, but I think most of us would agree that given the choice to cook only for ourselves, or to cook for others, the latter would undoubtedly win.
And so it happened, that after a lazy day of soaking up the warm Nevada sun by the pool and napping, we sat around gossiping while I sliced up everything for the salad. The day was going great, and the salad was nearly complete. (Wait for it, I am sure you can guess what is coming...) Then, while I was innocently chopping up some of the fennel fronds, life seemed to slow down like in the Matrix movies: The tip of my knife was moving directly towards my finger, and I could see it, but there was nothing I could do to stop it! Everything that happened next is sort of a blur, but I definitely remember all the blood, and just hoping to God that I had not just lopped off the top of my ring finger. In case you don't remember from my last post, I don't do well at all with seeing my own blood. So naturally, I spent the next twenty minutes lying on the floor trying not to pass out, while frantically calling my PA sister and doctor boyfriend to find out how I should treat this or if I needed to go to the ER. (I should mention, my friend and I also checked the health guide that comes included with her in-case-of-emergency/end-of-the-world first aid kit. No fear, although there was no information regarding wound care, we now know exactly what to do if we need to treat an amputated limb or frostbite.)
(Holding gauze on my wounded finger while sprinkling pistachios on our salad. Who does that?)
I won't go on with too many other gory details, but I will just tell you that I am fine now, with the exception of one 1.5cm region on the ring finger of my left hand. I didn't go to the ER and get stitches, although I absolutely should have had at least two stitches put in. This is entirely because I have crappy health insurance; if I am 100 miles outside of San Diego, my deductible is $500. Ack! I can personally lobby for health care reform for PhD Candidates.
So, having made the decision to treat the wound myself MacGuyver-style, I figured the best medicine would be to finish up the salad and then go get some ice cream. (Some may say this is dedication, others will say it is crazy.) Throbbing, bleeding finger be damned, we made the salad and took the first bite. It was completely disappointing.
I mean, after all this hoopla and pain maybe I was expecting too much??? My friend disagreed, she also thought it was underwhelming. I couldn't understand what had happened... the ingredients were all so promising. This salad deserves a chance at redemption, with some major tweaking to the recipe (see below for changes), and hopefully my other Summer Salads will turn out better than this one (and especially sans drama). For now, all I can tell you is that this salad is not worth the pain.
And a piece of advice: Exercise caution if you plan to tangle with a Shun.
Arugula, Fennel, and Apricot Salad
Made exactly as printed in Bon Appetit, June 2010...
And it was unsatisfying.
So here are the changes I would make:
-Starting with the ingredients, I would say that unless you have a mandoline, it might not be so easy to slice the fennel thin enough for it to be pleasant in this salad. I sliced with a knife, and I wished they were thinner. (Maybe I could have done better? Who knows. Either way, thinner is better.)
-Next ingredient, I would skip the use of the actual apricots, and just go with dried ones. The flavor was not so outstanding in the salad, and was definitely not my favorite part. Plus, dried apricots are more widely available, are not seasonal, and are less costly. You might even have some in your pantry right now.
-Moving on to the dressing, I don't know how flavorful you like your dressings, or how much you like on your salad. For me, this dressing was too bland and there was not enough of it. That said, I think I would probably punch it up with a little garlic because it is easy, or maybe go the other way and add a tiny bit of sugar. Whatever you do, I would recommend increasing the amounts by 1/2.
-The fennel fronds didn't add anything to the dressing, and just made me cut myself. This makes me hate them, and tell you that they don't belong in the dressing. Feel free to form your own opinion. ;)