Crunchy Apple, Fennel + Grains Salad

April 6, 2016
Crunchy Apple, Fennel + Grains Salad - Refreshing, crispy, crunchy & light. It's a salad that brings color and happiness to any meal.

“My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.  Unless there are three other people”   ~ Orson Welles

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I really look forward to the couple of days out of the week that I give my daughter a ride to work.  A few minutes .. just the two of us .. to catch up.  It's fun to hear what she's thinking about and how she's approaching her life .. now that she has a little one of her own.

“Now that I'm a mom .. I want to have dinner as a family .. as much as we can.  Growing up .. I wish we would've done it more often”

Alas

It's often said that families are created around the dinner table.  That it's the most important hour of the day.  The time we need to pause .. say a prayer .. and eat potatoes together .. night after night .. without fail .. no matter what.

Forever and ever.  Amen

Dinner time is sacred .. it will make you a family .. it's been written

Certainly it can be sacred.  Certainly it can be part of what makes you a family.  But I'm not convinced either of these things happen because of the hour .. or if the dishes match .. or what's being served

I've come to believe it's sacred and will make you a better family if .. and only if .. one chooses to see it that way

Crunchy Apple, Fennel + Grains Salad - Refreshing, crispy, crunchy & light. It's a salad that brings color and happiness to any meal.

My childhood was delineated .. in part .. by the farming crisis of the 1980s.

In the early years .. growing up on our family's farm in northwestern Iowa .. there was a predictable flow to our evenings.  In the summer and winter months .. after the chores had been finished .. we'd sit down together for meals made from recipes of friends and neighbors .. gathered together in well-worn church cookbooks

Casseroles .. pot-roasts .. and dessert salads.

During planting or harvest season .. dinner was sandwiches .. eaten brown-bag-style .. in the cab of the tractor or combine.  At dusk my brother and I headed off to the fields on our three-wheeler.  Special delivery to my father and grandfather while they worked .. well in to the night.

Then came the farming crisis.  The season my parents decided to go back to school .. and pursue their college degrees (brave!).  Between parents whose days were filled with work and school .. and two busy teenagers .. family dinners became far

from the norm

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None of us really thought about it  much.  We knew the Schwan's man by name .. warmed burritos from the freezer .. cooked noodles on the stove and covered them with cheese .. opened the peanut butter jar .. and made cinnamon toast

Some days .. we'd forget the sacred .. the togetherness.  We'd focus on the homework .. the mess .. the dishes .. the everyday

But on others .. the ones my father would break out the Aunt Jemima and boysenberry syrup .. or my Granny would be visiting .. and in the kitchen making cabbage rolls.  Those still make me smile

When I became a mom of my own .. I remember feeling exactly the way she does today.  That I so badly wanted to do everything right .. and the only way family dinner should be done is around the kitchen table .. over a meat and vegetables at 6 pm.

Please pass the salt

But now .. I know better

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To the mother with a car full of hungry kids navigating the drive-through.  #7 no mayo .. #4 hold the meat + lots of tomatoes .. #10 with the works.  Is that everything?  Probably not .. but it'll be good enough.  Sacred mealtime .. you're making a family

To the weary father in the middle of the night .. re-heating last night's meatloaf while warming the baby's bottle.  Sacred mealtime .. you're making a family

To the grandparents at the park with your grandchild.  Animal crackers and apple juice shared on a bench.  Sacred mealtime .. you're making a family

To the college student eating a bologna sandwich at the library.  Sacred mealtime

To the puppies who wait at your feet to QA those eggs .. or pancakes .. or cheese slices.  Sacred mealtime .. you're making a family

To the ones we love .. to those we don't understand .. to those we're glad we left the door open to.  Sacred mealtime .. we're making a family

To those we keep showing up for .. even if the gesture isn't recognized or returned.  Sacred mealtime .. we're making a family

To those we keep frying eggs for .. keep wiping crumbs from .. keep passing the salt to .. keep refilling wine for .. keep spreading love and patience and apple butter to

Sacred mealtime .. we're making a family

Crunchy Apple, Fennel + Grains Salad - Refreshing, crispy, crunchy & light. It's a salad that brings color and happiness to any meal.

We're lucky enough to have a talented neighbor who's known for many things .. including her love of interesting salads .. and this is no exception.  Her addition to last month's Spaghetti Saturday.

As a whole .. the salad is absolutely wonderful.  Fennel and apple are such great partners .. and are brightened by the vinaigrette.  Refreshing .. crispy .. crunchy .. and light .. it's a salad that brings color and happiness to any meal.

A note about the grains.  In her original .. she simply cooked the grains before adding them.

Here .. taking a queue from Cooking Light .. I've include the frying step.  They're easy to make .. and on their own the crunchy spelt tasted a bit like unpopped popcorn kernels.  Fried .. they have a nutty flavor .. and become incredibly crisp.

Once they're incorporated into the salad .. they're transformative.  The addition of the perfect and unexpected crunch.

Enjoy!

xoxo

ps:  For recipes and stories from Spaghetti Saturday .. here

Crunchy Apple, Fennel + Grains Salad - Refreshing, crispy, crunchy & light. It's a salad that brings color and happiness to any meal

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Crunchy Apple, Fennel + Grains Salad
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • Vinaigrette
  • 4-5 Tsp of Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne vinegar (or 3 Tsp apple cider vinegar)
  • 3 Tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tsp fresh dill or tarragon (chopped)

  • Salad
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, stalks trimmed and thinly sliced .. chopping enough fronds for 2 tsp
  • 2 firm, crisp apples (Pink Lady, Jazz, Gala), cut into julienne strips

  • Crunchy Grains
  • 2 cups cooked grains (I like spelt or wheat berries)
  • 4 cups coconut oil (or canola oil)

  • Topping
  • Fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries, etc)
  • pinch sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
  • pomegranate seeds or sprinkles of goat cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Crunchy Grains
  2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat until a thermometer submerged in oil registers 375°. (Don't use a smaller pot .. the moisture in the grains will cause the oil to bubble up vigorously)
  3. Add ½ cup grains to the hot oil and cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until grains are browned and crisp. (Maintain oil temperature at 375°, and fry in small batches)
  4. Remove fried grains from pan with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels.
  5. Repeat with remaining grains, ½ cup at a time.

  6. Vinaigrette
  7. In a small bowl, add the vinegar, lemon juice, dill/tarragon and whisk.
  8. Slowly add the olive oil
  9. Set aside

  10. Salad
  11. In a medium-sized bowl, add the fennel, fennel fronds, apples, and grains
  12. Pour the dressing over the top and toss to combine.
  13. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  14. Sprinkle berries on top
Notes
Nutritional Data by %
% Protein: 5
% Carbs: 74
% Fat: 1
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ¼ Total Recipe Calories: 135 Fat: 4 Carbohydrates: 25.05 Sugar: 10.57 Protein: 2

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