Ottolenghi characterized this salad as one that would make a real statement at the start of a meal. I can’t agree more. I served this salad together with the squash, quince and Stilton quiche for a group of book-club friends at my house the other day. To my surprise, the wonderful freshness of fennel and the sweet flavor of ripe pears are not lost to the strong and commanding flavor of the quiche. Even the color of the salad works nicely. It stays quietly in the background. The demure off-white color of fennel and pears and the light green of arugula do not outshine the colorful quiche. This salad has a distinctive flavor that stands smartly on its own. It was such a hit with the ladies that I decided to post it here.
I am familiar with the use of caraway, dill, cumin, fennel and anise seeds in breadbaking. These spices have settled harmoniously on my spice rack for quite a while. Up till now, I seldom use them in salads. But Ottolenghi has other and better ideas.
It seems to make sense in pairing any one of these dry spices, which are closely related, with fresh fennel. Looking closely, the idea of substituting caraway with cumin, dill, fennel or anise seeds in this salad, both from a flavoring and textural perspective, may be flawed. Fennel and anise have a similar licorice flavor that caraway doesn’t. Caraway and dill have similar flavor, but different in aroma and size. Caraway is much smaller. Dill seeds have a more pungent and bitter flavor than caraway, making them more suitable for pickling than for dressing a salad. Cumin has a flavor all its own. I am curious as to how Ottolenghi came up with caraway seeds for this salad. Whatever it is, his selection of spices is pinpoint perfect. As far as I can taste, and tell, caraway provides a distinct visual contrast and gives off a sweet subtle aroma — a faint reminder of rye bread. Masterful!
|Caraway Seeds: No Substitution|
What a wonderful combination of a few common ingredients: tossing ripe pears, fresh fennel and arugula together with a touch of roasted caraway seeds and quietly transforming the ingredients into a spectacular salad that would stand up to any dish.
Much to rejoice in the joy of discovery and, above all, of breaking bread and sharing delicious food among a bunch of great friends!
This salad and a soup dish are making their way to the April potluck party at IHCC. There will be many interesting dishes on the table from other IHCC participants. Please make a visit and enjoy!