Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance member Penelope Woodhouse provides a Meatless Monday recipe for shaved fennel salad from her Meatless Monday menu at her Botanical Tea Room in Augusta, MO. Augusta is a small rural community (population 250), originally settled by German immigrants who brought winemaking and other agricultural skills to the region.
It is located between St. Louis (home of Monsanto, an hour away) and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (3 hours away). Like much in North America, this region is riddled with contrasts and contradictions. Augusta was once home to Sioux, Cherokee and Iroquois First Nations.
Originally from England, Penelope furnishes a recipe that features fresh ingredients available in ample supply in the spring: most notably fennel — a flavor that is still rather new for American tastes. This salad reminds me of what one would find in a British tea house. Remember, tea can be an actual meal, not just warm beverages and sweets. Penelope’s inspiration for her team room stems from her upbringing in England. However, she is also inspired by the tea rooms that once played a pivotal role in the development of the American suffragette movement in the late 19th century. At the time, tea rooms were synonymous with free thought and women entrepreneurship (with an easier entry into the marketplace than restaurants). She brings this spirit, together with a more recent social movement influence led primarily by women: yoga. Slow Yoga, yoga weekends at wineries and revived interest in Ayurvedic eating are reshaping women’s social networks and weekly experiences.
Serves 4 (one cup each)
As unique as fennel is raw, shaved thinly, it is like a wet kiss. Sweetness overpowers the anise flavor. With a pleasant crunchy texture, fennel also aids digestion. Nowadays, you can find it in supermarket produce sections. A farmers market staple, it is also relatively easy to grow. Baker’s Creek boasts its Florence variety (originally from Italy). Tossed with arugula and other spring greens, a little bit of fennel goes a long way. This salad is also a wonderful opportunity to feature the taste of place with local honeys. There are many on the international Ark of Taste. Wherever you are, important honeys are near: (High Altitude Honey in Mexico, Tupelo Honey in Florida and Georgia in the USA, or Bore Honey in the Ethiopian mountains). The salad also leans heavily upon the tart flavor of dried fruit, some of which are endangered by monocrop agriculture. Look for local dried berries, like Highbush Cranberries of Canada, Rossen wild fruits in Belarus, Soh Shyllei of the Salamander Tree Fruit of India.
2 cups (2 oz) of baby greens, like arugula, or a mix of baby green leaves like mizuna, mâche, or oak leaf lettuce
1 TBS of sherry vinegar
1 TBS of virgin olive oil
1 TBS of honey or agave***
2 cups of fresh, raw, fennel (thin slices using a mandolin slicer)
¼ cup of dry cranberries or other tart, dried fruit
¼ cup of scallions
Dash of sea salt and pepper
Garnishing: Toasted walnuts or almonds, dried cherries or raisins also work well for this recipe.
*** You can omit the sweetener, but in addition to the sugar, its presence helps to coat the leaves.
Whisk the dressing ingredients in a measuring cup. In a salad bowl, place the greens, shaved fennel, scallions, and dried fruit. Pour the dressing into the bowl and toss the ingredients.
Once dressed, divvy up the salad into four small salad bowls and top with toasted nuts and serve with tea. If at work, bring the dressing in a small jar and wait to toss until lunch. If at home, consider this salad for high tea. Delicious if served with rustic bread and butter, and a pot of hot tea.
–> This recipe is part of the Meat the Change campaign, carried out to raise awareness among producers and consumers about the environmental impact of meat consumption and production. Find out more here
–> To learn more about Meatless Monday: Watch the videos about how it is going global; and the tour of Terra Madre. To join us, submit a recipe of your own via email ([email protected]). If you prepare this week’s recipe, post images online using the hashtags #MeattheChange and #MeatlessMonday.