I love this time of year when the weather changes and all my spring foods come into season. It is a great time to start incorporating more fresh salads into your meals.
One of my all time favorites is Caesar Salad. It's a great salad...crisp lettuce, tossed in a lusciously decadent dressing, plus crunchy croutons (omg, croutons!) and rich Parmesan. But it all leaves me feeling a bit heavy for a salad and I actually tend NOT to make it or order it in a restaurant anymore.
So it got me thinking that this salad could use a little spring revamp. I lightened the dressing, with the inspiration of Jamie Oliver, and took this salad to another level. It starts with piles of shaved fennel, pickled red onion (an extra step, but super-easy and well worth the effort!) homemade garlicky croutons and zesty lemon grilled prawns, and I even found fennel-marinated olives. It will be a must on your menu as we move into BBQ and al fresco-dining months ahead.
Here is France, fennel bulb is readily available and one of my favorite vegetables. I tend to use it in place of celery for most recipes. It is native to the Mediterranean shores and can be prepared in so many different ways. It adds a lovely aniseed flavor and a great crunch to this spring salad. You can easily substitute a more traditional lettuce, like a baby romaine, but I highly recommend trying the shaved fennel!
Without further ado, here it is:
Shaved Fennel and Watercress Caesar Salad with pickled red onion, lemon grilled prawns, served with a light Caesar Dressing
1 medium red onion
1 cup/250ml apple cider vinegar
1/2 loaf of your favorite bread, for croutons
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tablespoon fruity olive oil
salt and pepper
400 gr raw prawns, shelled and de-veined
zest of one lemon
2 medium size fennel bulbs
3/4 cup or 100gr meaty black olives
1 cup/130 gr shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 bunches of watercress, cleaned and de-stemmed
1 small head of spring lettuce (bibb, radicchio, etc), cleaned and dried
1. Thinly slice the red onion and let marinate in the apple cider vinegar for several hours or overnight. Reserve the vinegar (which will have a slight oniony flavor and a beautiful pinkish-red tint) for future use.
2. Prepare the croutons: cut the bread into small cubes. Toss with 1/2 glove of crushed garlic, one tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Bake on a tray in the oven at 180C for 15-20 mins, until crisp and golden brown.
3. Prepare the prawns: Toss the prawns with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 glove crushed garlic, and lemon zest. Grill on a hot grill pan until pink and translucent. Set aside and let cool.
4. Prepare the fennel: Cut the top and bottom off of the fennel (save for your vegetable stock). Peel the outside layers of the fennel with a vegetable peeler. For a more tender fennel, you can also remove the inside stalk, towards the bottom of the bulb. Thinly slice the fennel and place in water with a squeeze of lemon to keep from going brown.
5. Prepare the light Caesar Dressing (recipe below)
6. Drain and dry the shaved fennel. On a large platter layer the fennel, watercress, and lettuce together. Generously ladle on the light Ceasar dressing. Top with lemon grilled prawns, pickled onions, black olives, croutons, and Parmesan. There is nothing more to do than sit back and enjoy!
Light Caear Salad Dressing:
1 cup/ 250 gr greek-style yogurt
1 clove a garlic, minced
2 anchovy fillets, mashed
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup/ 85gr grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1. In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt with the anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk in the oil and the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.