Mamma’s birthday feast and a fennel, apple and walnut salad

It was my mother’s birthday yesterday. She turned 86, though she likes to flip the numbers the other way so she says that she is actually now 68. The problem with that play on numbers is that next year she will turn 78, the following year 88, so it will eventually catch up with her! We had a celebratory lunch at my place, a simple affair with my sister and I sharing the preparation.

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She made sarde in sa’or , her special prawn pâté and I made a pork and chicken terrine with a red pepper relish . We had a huge plate of salumi that I had bought from the Mediterranean Supermarket in Brunswick and a few salads, one with tiny green radicchio leaves from mamma’s garden (grown from seeds of cicoria zuccherina di Trieste) and another made with apples, walnuts and grated baby fennel. We shared a bottle of chilled Clare Valley Riesling, my favorite wine at the moment.

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We finished off lunch with a delicious gluten free white chocolate cheesecake which my sister made, topped with raspberries and passionfruit. Unfortunately we had no candles in the house so we sang tanti auguri a te (happy birthday to you) over slices of delicious cake and cups of coffee.

The fennel salad was particularly simple and lovely. I love fennel and eat it frequently, thinly sliced with parmigiano and dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This salad has loads more flavors and textures – with sweet, sour, salty flavors and crunchy elements in it. I found it on the Purple Foodie blog. It was delightful – and one I will definitely make again as part of a fresh spring/summer meal – it sings healthy goodness and deliciousness. It made a lovely contrast to all the other parts of mamma’s birthday lunch (it is in the colorful Turkish dish in the first photo).

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Fennel, apple and walnut salad
1 fennel bulb, stalks removed and thinly sliced with a mandolin
1 crisp apple (Fuji, Pink Lady or Granny Smith), cored and very thinly sliced
1/3 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/3 cup parmigiano, shaved
Zest 1/2 lemon
Handful salad greens (I used radicchio)
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Juice 1/2 lemon

Toss together the first six ingredients very gently. In a small jar, place the EVOO, lemon juice, salt and pepper – shake with the lid on and pour over the salad, tossing gently and taste, adjusting oil, lemon or salt as required. Serve immediately.

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11 comments on “Mamma’s birthday feast and a fennel, apple and walnut salad

  1. While I wait for the lettuce to grow, I fill the salad bowl with the first spinach leaves, arugula, baby kale, chickweed, and the leaves of over-wintered chicory. My favorite salad varieties are Chicory “Bionda Folie Larghe” and Chicory “Zuccherina di Trieste”, that I found in the Seeds from Italy catalog and planted last fall. The new spring growth is mild and tender–perfect for eating raw in salads.

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