Story goes that Cajun culturist Justin Wilson, when asked what's for supper, will answer with his own question, "Whaddaya got?" and then decide. Do you cook in that inspired, improvisational way? If so, I bow in homage! Me, nearly always I am a "recipe cook" who starts with a list of ingredients, albeit one who then tugs and twists those ingredients to simplify techniques and match my idea of what's good and what's healthy.
Last week, the Missouri Organic Association hosted its annual conference here in St. Louis and three local chefs and three local bloggers teamed up for an Iron Chef-style cookoff. Talk about cooking outside my comfort zone – in public!
But I must say, talk about a total kick, thanks to my collaborator chef Pat Long from Cafe Mosaic in Washington, Missouri. In one hour, the challenge was to somehow start to finish combine three surprise ingredients, tilapia, sunchokes and black walnuts. The salad here is one of two dishes Pat and I really liked, especially the candied black walnuts made special with the addition of orange zest. (Did I say orange zest? Yes I did!) Bummer, the judges didn't agree – except for the candied black walnuts!
Many thanks to the organizers:
My new friend Rene Sackett of Healing Hands Welness Therapies and market master of the Ellisville Farmers Market in west St. Louis County.
The ever-charming Josh Galliano of Monarch Restaurant in Maplewood, who, it shall be said, has an inexplicable attachment to sunchokes aka Jerusalem artichokes.
Much applause to our fellow competitors:
St. Louis food blogger Denise Evans of Eat Laugh Love and chef David Kirkland Cafe Osage in the Central West End.
The husband & wife winning team, St. Louis food blogger Kimberly Henricks-Friedhoff of Rhubarb and Honey and Chuck Friedhoff, chef at Persimmon Wood Golf Club in Weldon Spring. Congrats, guys!
Our efforts were judged by a stellar group of St. Louis food professionals:
St. Louis food blogger Stef Pollack of Cupcake Project, the experimental cupcake blog.
Ben Poremba of Salume Beddu, St. Louis' artisan producer of cured meats.
Ligaya Figueras, senior staff writer at Sauce Magazine, St. Louis' free monthly food magazine.
Nate Dunavant of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in St. Louis.
RECIPE for FENNEL-APPLE SALAD with ORANGE-ZEST CANDIED BLACK WALNUTS
Time to table: 20 minutes
ORANGE-ZEST CANDIED BLACK WALNUTS, optional but pretty special!
1 tablespoon olive oil (butter is more traditional but olive oil makes this a vegan salad)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons black walnuts (see TIPS)
Zest of an orange
Juice of an orange
Juice of half a lemon
1 bulb fennel, diced small (save the "fronds" -- the bits of feathery green stuff)
1 golden delicious apple, skin on, diced small
1 teaspoon - yes, teaspoon - good olive oil
2 teaspoons - yes, teaspoons - good vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
2 oranges, ends trimmed, cut into eight rounds
Fennel fronds, chopped
Orange-Zest Candied Black Walnuts
ORANGE-ZEST CANDIED BLACK WALNUTS In a small skillet, heat the butter or oil until sizzly. Stir in brown sugar and let melt, stirring often until mixture combines into a thick syrup. Stir in black walnuts, let cook 1 - 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in orange zest and set aside to harden and cool. Break apart with a spatula or your fingers. Can be made ahead, if so, when cool, transfer to a covered dish and refrigerate.
FENNEL-APPLE SALAD Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Can be made 2 - 3 hours ahead, if so cover and refrigerate.
TO SERVE Place one or two orange rounds on plates. Top one or both rounds with the Fennel-Apple Salad. Sprinkle with Orange-Zest Candied Black Walnuts and chopped fennel fronds. Serve immediately.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
Black walnuts are a Missouri specialty but not always easy to find here, let alone elsewhere. My best source? Sam's Club of all places. But English walnuts -- what bags / containers usually just call "walnuts" -- work just fine, just be sure to toast them first.
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MORE FAVORITE FENNEL RECIPES
~ Fennel Goulash ~
~ Spring & Summer Sliced Salad ~
~ Insalata di Finocchio aka Fennel Salad ~
~ more fennel recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
MORE WINTER SALADS
~ Apple Yogurt Salad ~
~ Roasted Pear Salad ~
~ Savory Orange Slices ~
~ more fruit salad recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2012