The salty creaminess of feta, tanginess of lemon, the licorice-laced crisp flavours of fennel, the explosive sweetness of Sultan’s Jewel tomatoes, the mild honeyish pomegranate seeds and the nuttiness of edamame all brought together in harmony by the grassiness of good extra virgin olive oil.
And to think sometimes I forget why salads are so addictive, so all-encompassing and very beautiful to look at. If something so simple (and simply put together) can taste so good, lifting my spirits with each bite, I’m never going to underestimate the humble salad ever again.
A friend once offered me a bottle of salad dressing, to which I turned it down saying I don’t really eat salad dressing. I enjoy salads mostly as they are – their component parts with no oily, wet dressing that splatters everywhere when I’ve got leafy bits sticking out between my lips like a goat. I don’t know if it’s some weird purist mentality I’ve got but that’s pretty much how I usually like my salads. Or if I really had to go for a salad dressing, then extra virgin olive oil and loads of balsamic vinegar which I love with a great passion. Anything mayonnaise-y, or something thick like thousand island dressing really puts me off. Not that I can’t stomach it, I just won’t enjoy it as much. And give my tummy a few hours, it’d probably start feeling a little upset and gurgling like it was part of a string orchestra. I kid you not. Therefore I stress clean, crisp flavours always. That’s just the way forward.
After months of wishing after the Ottolenghi cookbook, and the torturous process of having to see my beautiful foodie friends blog about their Ottolenghi recipes, experiences, it was high time I finally got my own copy. And I did. And it was such a luxury – a stylishly put-together cookbook with a glossy white cover; my heart was beating twice as fast and doing little skips as I flipped through the pages, eyeing the pulses and vegetables, curbing the urge to start sticking little 3M sticky notes in there with a frenzy for potential lunches and so forth. Happiness is moi. (Yes I’m so easily pleased with new cookbooks. But aren’t we foodies all a species of that sort? I’m eyeing the The French Laundry Cookbook next.) I’ve always been a fan of Ottolenghi food ever since I moved to London and even before I did, I’d browsed through the cookbook thinking how gorgeous the food must taste. Then I started visiting the Islington branch since I live just a little way from it. There was no turning back. I became a true fan. Unfortunately, I always felt a bit like a muggle or a half-blood without the cookbook. And having to queue for half a day (yes I exaggerate) or resorting to take-aways to get Ottolenghi grub in my mouth, down my esophagus and then safely into my stomach whenever I have a craving seems much too complicated. Remember, I am lazy.
Equipped with my new cookbook, life seems so rosy. With the beautiful weather too, it’s about time I shove that crabbiness so typical of my character somewhere where the sun don’t shine. I can’t wait to try out more of the recipes and actually, that’s probably not gonna change the fact that I’d still be hopping on a bus to Angel to take-away Ottolenghi cakes (and then eating them in the dark corners of my bedroom – on my own – a la Gollum) or meeting friends there for lunch.
On a final note, let me just say that I’m not just OCD, a perfectionist and anal (please, no crude jokes) to the point of being annoying. I also plan like a high-strung freak (not that I’m high-strung at all. I just have this thing about planning.) But here’s a confession – I’ve booked my sister and I in for dinner at Ottolenghi 2 MONTHS in advance. Yea, so I’m totally off my trolley like that. Crazy.
The original recipe uses tarragon instead of basil and adds no tomatoes or edamame. This makes about 4 servings.
Fennel and Feta with Pomegranate Seeds, Edamame & Sumac
Recipe adapted from the original (p.17) in Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
- 1/2 pomegranate
- 2 medium fennel heads
- 4 tbs fresh edamame beans
- 1/2 cup cherry/plum tomatoes
- 1 1/2tbs olive oil
- 2 tsp crushed sumac, plus extra for garnish
- juice of 1 lemon
- 4 tbs fresh basil leaves, roughly shredded
- 2 tbs fresh flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 70g Greek feta cheese
- salt and ground black pepper, for seasoning
Remove pomegranate seeds from the fruit. Be careful not to bruise them or break the skin. You can purchase pomegranate seeds also fresh from the cut fruit section in major supermarkets.
Remove leaves from the fennel, reserving some for garnish later. Trim the base, making sure there’s still enough left on to hold the slices together. Slice very thinly lengthwise. Place sliced fennel, herbs, edamame and cherry tomatoes in a large salad bowl.
In another bowl, mix the olive oil, sumac, lemon juice, herbs and some salt and pepper. Add this to the salad bowl, toss well. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste.
To serve, layer the fennel, then the feta and then the pomegranate seeds. Garnish with reserved fennel leaves, sprinkle with sumac and more parsley leaves if you have any lying about. Serve.