Pear and Fennel Salad with Caraway and Pecorino

 

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!

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    kitchen flavours
    April 30, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Such a fresh and lovely salad! I love caraway seeds though I only used it mostly in bread baking, never in a salad. I can imagine the flavour and aroma it imparts to the fennel bulb!

  • Reply
    Susan Lindquist
    May 2, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    This IS terrific salad! YO is really daring in his treatment of vegetables and the spices that he adds to build flavour …

  • Reply
    Kim
    May 3, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    Isn't it remarkable how well Ottolenghi puts together veggie dishes. Such a wonderful contrast of textures and flavors with the ripe juicy pears against the crunchy fennel. The combination of spices is genius! I can see why this was such a hit with the ladies! Thanks for sharing such a great recipe:)

  • Reply
    Grace Phua
    May 4, 2015 at 12:53 am

    I've never tasted fennel before but I'm sure given it's from Ottolenghi, this salad would taste superb with the textures and flavours. I want to try this salad someday because yours look so refreshingly good.

  • Reply
    Grace Phua
    May 4, 2015 at 12:53 am

    I've never tasted fennel before but I'm sure given it's from Ottolenghi, this salad would taste superb with the textures and flavours. I want to try this salad someday because yours look so refreshingly good.

  • Reply
    Deb in Hawaii
    May 4, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Gorgeous salad–how did I miss this one? Ottolenghi seems quite fond of caraway seed–it shows up in several recipes and always interestingly combined with other ingredients. 😉

  • Reply
    Ms Howtheylived
    May 4, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Your club and what you served sound so wonderful. To me, the magic of this chef's pairing the caraway this way, which I would never dream of but which turns out perfectly, is the essence of chefly magic. I accidentally found that smaller caraway seeds I found at Dean & Delucca taste better to me than the giant ones I always found at a grocery store — yours look my new favorite size.

  • Reply
    flour.ish.en
    May 4, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    You did not miss this; the recipe is not from the book. I got it on his website. Now I find more uses for caraway seeds and good ones too.

  • Reply
    flour.ish.en
    May 4, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    You are right: the essence is the chefly magic which can be elusive sometimes.

  • Reply
    teaandscones
    May 5, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    What a lovely looking salad. And such an interesting combination.

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