“Oh no,” I hear you groan. “Now that she’s trying to lose weight, it’s going to be All Salad, All The Time around here.” Never fear, my pretties: I had gumbo for breakfast. It will be business as usual Chez LK, and though I will admit that my determination to halt middle-aged spread in its tracks may result in fewer bacon biscuits and more crunchy vegetables, bacon biscuits will always have a place in my heart. And my belly.
But, let’s talk Philadelphia: have you been there? Have you eaten there? It’s been a long time since I’ve spent any real time in the City of Brotherly Love, but my friend Christina was there last week for a conference, so I drove down to visit for the weekend. And we ate. And ate. And ate some more. Charcuterie and cheese plate and bacon-wrapped dates at Amada, Mexican omelets, avocado & hummus sandwiches, and mimosas at Farmicia, BBQ pork sliders and chicken cheesesteak The Happy Rooster, and the piece de resistance, the WaffaMul, a Belgian waffle-scrambled egg-cheese-tomato-bacon sandwich at Gaslight. Served with Old Bay cheesy home fries, natch. Not to mention Lancaster milk stout, and pumpkin ale, and IPA. Excuse me while I go run 52 miles.
During the whole weekend, while I was quite guiltlessly enjoying egg and cheese and meat-slathered meals, I kept trying to order something a tad more diet-friendly: more vegetables, less meat; more whole grains & fiber, less fat. It was basically impossible. I faced the quintessential American conundrum when eating out: it’s either a plain green salad with a joyless salt-free, fat-free, flavor-free dressing, or a pulled pork sandwich the size of your head, slathered in barbecue sauce, three kinds of cheese, and fried onions. Heaven forbid we establish a reasonable middle ground with a nice vegetable curry, a grain and roasted veg salad, or even a classic protein-and-2-sides dish where the meat doesn’t outweigh the fresh vegetables 2-to-1.
All of this is just a long-winded way of saying that I came home from Philly desperately craving something bright & crunchy and packed full of vegetable goodness. This sweet-tart, crunchy, nicely balanced fennel, grapefruit & feta salad fit the bill. Keep it in your back pocket for the next time you come home from a weekend of Eating Out in America. It’ll fix you right up.
- 3 large red or pink grapefruits, preferably organic
- 1 large bulb fennel, thinly sliced
- 2 or 3 fennel stalks, with fronds, thinly sliced
- 6 oz feta cheese, diced
- olive oil
- flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- large pinch of cayenne pepper
- Wash, dry and zest the grapefruits, adding zest to a large bowl. Suprême the grapefruits, squeezing excess juice into the large bowl, but reserving fruit segments in a separate bowl.
- Combine fennel bulb, stalks, and feta in the large bowl. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and cayenne, and toss well to combine. Add grapefruit segments and toss again. Taste and adjust seasonings. If your grapefruit is quite sweet, you may want a dash of lemon juice to balance acidity. If quite tart, a tiny drizzle of honey can balance the sweetness.
- Allow salad to sit for about 10 -15 minutes, so fennel can soften and feta can dissolve somewhat in the grapefruit juice. Toss one more time, taste and adjust seasonings, then lift salad out of the bowl with tongs or salad servers and transfer to a serving bowl, leaving behind the dressing in the bottom of the bowl. Transfer dressing to a gravy boat or serving pitcher; serve alongside salad.
Serves 6 – 8 as a side.
- Add fresh lime juice, and a bit more cayenne, for a slightly different twist.
- Fresh flat-leaf parsley, cilantro or mint, added at the very end, would work well.
- Fennel and orange work nicely together, so this would work with orange or tangerine, although use some lemon juice in the dressing to balance the acidity.
- This is a nice place to use those fancy fennel and citrus salts you’ve been wondering what to do with.
Best eaten fresh.