Onions, onion, onions, 384pp.
by Linda and Fred Griffith
Chapters Publishing Ltd, Vermont, 1994
Cooking on page 132
Love the subtitle of this cookbook—delicious recipes for the world’s favorite secret ingredient. Almost every recipe I make, barring desserts, starts with onions and garlic. Onions figure into a lot of breakfast dishes, and I even make a watermelon, feta and onion salad.
Even though I’ve owned this book for years (purchased secondhand for $9.90), I’ve not cooked from it much. I have, however, used it as a ready-reference for everything I’ve needed to know about the world of onions.
The first 40 pages are devoted to identifying onions and explaining how to treat them. But they didn’t have an interesting bit of trivia from Poor John. He says that in ancient Sumer, the word for onions was also the word for garden.
Today I’m cooking from page 132 (no recipe on 32).
Salad of fennel, smoke-cured ham and red onions
2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed
1/4 pound thinly sliced smoked ham, preferably Virginia ham, julienned
1 medium-sized red onion
3 cups torn mixed tender lettuce leaves
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh fennel fronds
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved, for garnish
Slice fennel crosswise as thinly as possible and place in a large salad bowl. Add ham, onion and lettuces.
In a small bowl, combine vinegar and mustard and which thoroughly. Slowly whisk in oil until mixture forms a thick emulsion. Blend in salt and pepper to taste, fennel fronds and chives.
Pour dressing over fennel mixture and toss well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with cheese shavings and serve.
How it played out
I’ve had my eye on this recipe for a long time, but a fennel bulb can cost up to $2.50 in Australia. So I’ve been waiting for a special. Hit it lucky this week, getting fennel, as well as mild pancetta and mixed lettuce for half price.
The intro to the recipe says prosciutto is an okay substitute for the ham, and I think the pancetta was also a great option. The garden chives have died, so I used 2 teaspoons of dried chives. Worked just fine.
As for the fennel, be sure to cut out the usually woody core before slicing the rest. I cut mine in half, top to bottom, then cut out the core, then sliced crosswise.
The dressing really makes this dish. Love the balance of flavours. It might even convert people who think they don’t like fennel or aniseed flavours.
Three of us polished this off for lunch. You could make this stretch further. I reckon there’s enough fennel, onion, meat and cheese to work well with 5–6 cups of mixed greens.