Spring is finally here and I am so happy to see my toes again after a long, almost endless bleak winter.
The cherry blossoms lining my street, the fresh vibrant produce in the markets, the skirts,singlets and thongs are all making me very happy. And I wanted to try and create something light and vibrant to capture the essence of this beautiful season. But I also wanted it to be more than a regular salad. I wanted it to make a statement when it arrives on the table. A bit of fancy, but oh so simple!
This is my first time cooking with fennel and I wonder why did I put off using such a beautiful vegetable till now. Fennel has such a delicious crisp and fresh texture; an amazing ingredient that can be used in so many ways in your cooking.
Today, I am keeping it simple; just grilling the fennel to lend a nice charred flavour yet retaining its crunchy texture. The cherry tomatoes are also lightly blistered on the grill but not taking it too far as I wanted that pop of fresh sweetness in the mouth. Splashes of green from the Lebanese cucumbers and rocket, a nutty edge from the roasted walnuts, shavings of good quality Parmigiano Reggiano and finally finished off with a generous drizzle of fresh turmeric aioli.
The fresh turmeric aioli was a last minute inspiration. I wanted more than a simple vinaigrette dressing; something creamy yet with refreshing flavours. And then I remembered a conversation that I had with a couple of my social media friends about the use of fresh turmeric. I usually use fresh turmeric grated into my morning smoothie and so when I had posted the same, many of my friends wanted to know how else to incorporate fresh turmeric into everyday cooking as it is a powerful immune booster.
And thus, this turmeric aioli happened. This one can be whipped up in no time and keeps well in the fridge for use in sandwiches or tacos. I kept the texture slightly on the runny side (not as thick as mayo) as I was using it for a salad.
So here’s how you can re-create my grilled fennel, walnut and cherry tomato salad with fresh turmeric aioli. A gorgeous salad with fresh vibrant flavours….
Grilled Fennel, Walnut, Cherry Tomato Salad with Fresh Turmeric Aioli
- 1 large fennel
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes; halved keep a few whole for aesthetic purposes
- 1 Lebanese cucumber
- ½ cup walnuts
- Parmigiano Reggiano Parmesan block
- 1 cup rocket leaves
- Macrobiotic sea salt to season (use regular salt if this is not available)
- Freshly milled black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Fennel fronds to garnish
Fresh turmeric aioli, to dress the salad
- To make fresh turmeric aioli:
- ½ inch fresh turmeric root
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 lemon
- Salt to season
- Vegetable oil at least 2-3 cups
To prepare the aioli:
- In a food processor, add the egg yolk and squeeze in juice from half a lemon. Season with salt.
- Blitz the mixture and add oil slowly through the top to start the emulsification process.
- As the mixture starts to emulsify and thicken, add a pinch of grated fresh turmeric. Blitz with more oil till desired consistency is achieved.
- Taste and adjust; if less tangy add more lemon juice. If you feel that the turmeric flavour is not coming through, then add a pinch more and blitz for a few seconds. Taste and repeat if necessary.
- Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
To prepare the salad:
- Remove the fronds from the fennel and keep aside (used later to garnish the salad). Cut the fennel bulb into medium thick slices.
- Heat the grill to smoking hot. Brush the fennel slices lightly with olive oil and season with salt. Grill on high heat for a couple of seconds on either side to get a nice char but still retain the crispness of the fennel.
- On the same grill, grill the tomatoes for a few seconds. We just need a blister on the tomatoes and do not want it to go mushy.
- Slice the cucumbers using a mandolin or peeler to get thin strips.
- Roast the walnuts in a pan; take care not to burn.
- To assemble; place a handful of rocket leaves on a plate and line two slices of grilled fennel on top. Add a couple of cherry tomatoes and walnuts. Roll 1-2 cucumber slices and place it on the plate. Add 2-3 shavings of Parmesan and garnish with fennel fronds; then dress lightly with a few spoonfuls of turmeric aioli. Finally sprinkle the macrobiotic sea salt and black pepper on top.
- It is not necessary to plate the salad in this manner; use your own creativity and I am sure you will come up with even better results.
And if you haven’t already read about all the excitement through my social media channels, I recently bought my first DSLR and this post is the first I shot with it. Notice any differences?