One of the disadvantages to having a birthday right after the holidays is that most people are tired of celebrating and eating so much rich food. Its understandable – usually I feel that way too! So to celebrate my birthday this week, I decided to host a potluck based on my birthday challenge this month. I asked my friends to bring their best healthy dish (vegan or raw got extra points!). And wow, did they bring it! We had a stunning array of food: rawsagna, sweet potato soup, kung pao tofu salad, raw lemon bars, pears with raw honey, roasted brussel sprouts, roasted beet relish, shaved fennel salad, and peanut butter chocolate cookies.
My first week of birthday challenge went really well. I felt great, full of energy and zest for all the beautiful vegetables piled in the kitchen! We started each day with a filling green smoothie, I ate leftovers and more vegetables for lunch, and for dinner? More of the same. I made a delicious and very easy baked squash and millet dish (courtesy of Mark Bittman via 101 Cookbooks here) that I would then add broccoli or greens to round it out. I hit all my target workouts for the week, and found that I can run for about 2 hours on one green smoothie!
The sun was out all week, and it was really refreshing to spend time wandering around the garden, checking out all my plants. It felt like I was catching up with old friends… seeing the tiniest of broccoli heads emerge, discovering plump pink-blue blueberries, and weeding to make room for some tender seedlings to grow. I also started seeds for peppers and eggplants (I can’t believe its time already!), and a few other winter plants that I haven’t had much luck with starting in the ground (no chickens in the garden = more bugs to chow down on seedlings). My favorite seed source is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, for their mouthwatering variety and beautiful catalog.
In trying to decide what to make for my birthday potluck, I stumbled upon this recipe for a shaved fennel salad with red onions and oranges in my favorite vegetable cookbook “The Vegetable Dishes I can’t Live Without“. What an odd combination of ingredients, I thought! What really intrigued me, though, was Mollie Katzen’s comment in the book that “I actually like it for dessert.” How could I not try it?
If you have a mandolin, this is the time to pull it out. The thin-ness of the onions and fennel is key! While I wouldn’t go so far as to call this dessert-worthy, I thought it made a nice light side to our already healthy potluck spread. And it would be tasty on a bed of romaine too!
Shaved Fennel with Red Onion, Olive Oil, & Oranges
1 large fennel bulb, shaved (chop off the top fronds and cut out the core, then slide it on the mandolin to get a cross-section cut) (4-5 cups)
1/2 medium red onion, shaved (about 1/2 cup)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp salt, to taste
3 oranges – peeled, seeded, and sectioned (I cut my slices in half)
A handful of fronds from the fennel, snipped into tiny pieces
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine the shaved fennel, red onion, olive oil, and salt in a medium-sized bowl and toss with a fork.
Add the oranges and stir gently. Cover and chill until cold. Just before serving, toss in the snipped fronds. Top each serving with a few grinds of black pepper.