I know I may be jumping the gun a bit by posting a “Winter” recipe as it seems Summer has just recently said its final goodbye. But as the wind currently wisps outside my windows and the rain pelts down on the fragile jewel-toned foliage I just know the trees that were barely clinging to their few remaining leaves will be skinny skeleton limbs in the morning.
Also, I just couldn’t wait to tell you about it.
Winter is not often highly regarded for its salads. All that is about to change.
Julienned fennel, celeriac and apple are lightly coated in a tangy homemade Creme Fraiche dressing. Piled high on plate, one invisions the hopeful thought of white snow in the months ahead, as their fork lunges into the crisp salad. This welcomed change of taste is a far cry from the usual roasted, braised and baked dishes that accompany the chilled Winter.
I must give credit for this ingenious dish to Mataio, chef and owner of Ciao Thyme Catering. You may recognize this company from such weddings as Molly and Brandon’s. It is also known as my former place of employment before we made the move to Seattle.
I say former but on occasion they let me back in to teach and play in their gorgeous kitchen filled with the colors of Tuscany – it is always a joy to return. The food that emerges from that place is beyond fantastic. It is inventive, mostly local and filled with more passion that I’ve ever seen presented on a plate.
Jessica and Mataio, owners of Ciao Thyme catering are currently spending the month of November traveling in Italy – I am more than a bit envious. The driving force behind this trip is to seek new tastes, new dishes and a renewed purpose and love for the food they create. The lessons learned from this trip will fuel the creativity needed to inspire the menus that are never repeated. I will be the first one lined up at the door of Ciao Thyme upon their arrival home, waiting for the Italian inspired dishes to emerge.
Winter White Salad
Serves 4 as a side salad
Celeriac, also know as celery root, is the unsung hero of this dish. The flavor is similar to that of celery but with more spice and none of the obnoxious strings. It crunches like a carrot and yields an aromatic fragrance that will leave you wondering why you’ve never taken note of it before. You’ll have to get beyond the warty and hard to peel exterior but once you do you will be rewarded with a unique flavor and a crisp crunch that we so long for in the cold Winter months ahead.
1 apple – I used a tart Pink Lady and loved the flavor it added.
1 Fennel bulb
about 1/4 of Celeriac, peeled
1 small Leek
Using a Mandolin with the matchstick blade carefully slice the apple, fennel and Celeriac. Each item should yield about 1 1/2 – 2 cups once cut. You can play with the quantity of each depending on your flavor preference. Keep all the sliced produce in a bowl of cold water with a touch of lemon juice to keep them from browning. When ready to dress the salad make sure you completely drain the matchsticks.
Thinly slice just the white part of the leek. Separate the rings.
Make the dressing.
Creme Fraiche Dressing
Making your own Creme Fraiche is an easy and rewarding experience. Here is my version which yields a thick tangy cream that you will often find a stash of in our fridge.
1 cup Heavy Cream (I microwaved it for 20 seconds to take off the chill and to speed up the process) add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to the cream. Stir. Let this mixture sit out for several hours until thick. At that point it can be refrigerated and kept covered for a couple of days.
1/4 cup Creme Fraiche
2 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients together.
Lightly coat the fennel, celeriac and apple with the dressing. Garnish with the leek rings and small parsley leaves. Serve immediately.
*As a side note I will be teaching a class in Bellingham, WA at Ciao Thyme. It is a Holiday Baking course covering some fundamental baking techniques like caramel, meringues and pie crust. I would LOVE to see some of you there – in fact I’d LOVE to see ALL of you! Check out their website for more details.