Monday, December 8, 2008

The Taste of Winter..., for me, I've recently discovered, not a soup or stew. It is a raw, crunchy, delicious salad composed of some of the only produce whose star turn occurs during this frigid time of year.

It started with what I thought was an overabundance of grapefruit. Thinking I'd come across a great deal, I bought a bag of seven ruby reds for $3 at Safeway. It turns out Shopper's is selling three for a dollar, which, I realize, after much pitiful brain-wracking, is a better deal. I'll just have to buy more, anyway, because this salad is my new obsession. Actually, slaw might be a better name for it, but I've always hated that word (and the mayonnaise-saturated connotations that go along with it). In my quest to not gain 10 lbs this winter (the snowbirding of my bicycle, which I can't seem to get over, has not helped this cause), this salad may be just the answer: it's so crunchy that, thanks to all the chewing involved, you end up eating less than you expect -- not that it matters since the thing is practically fat-free and chock full of fiber and vitamins, e.g. A, B, C, K, and B6. A sprinkling of sunflower seeds adds a crucial nuttiness -- for a lack of a better word -- as well as some much-needed salt.

I believe that in the last post I said something about a cornbread-crusted chili. I might postpone it till January/Super Bowl season. I'm saving my calories for Christmas.

Recipe: Grapefruit, Fennel, and Red Cabbage Salad

Like a lot of things I create, it tasted strange to me at first, but, after a few more bites, I couldn't stop shoving it into my mouth.

Serves 8 as side dish (4 as light main course). Keeps well for a few days.

2 grapefruit
1 head of red cabbage
2 fennel bulbs
1/2 C roasted, salted sunflower seeds (may substitute cashews, pistachios, peanuts, or probably any salty nut)
1/4 C rice or white wine vinegar
1 T sugar
1 t salt
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1/4 t ground pepper
1/4 C olive oil
fennel fronds, for garnish

Peel the grapefruit and chop flesh into bite-size pieces. Chop cabbage into thin strips. Chop off root of fennel and separate the pieces (it's similar to a celery stalk, but with fennel you want to use only the bulbous white parts near the root). Chop off the celery-like stems, which are too tough to eat, and save for stock, reserving some of the fronds. Take the bulb pieces (the large, white-ish parts) and chop into bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, mix together the grapefruit, cabbage, fennel, and sunflower seeds. For the dressing, which can be made a few hours in advance, whisk together the vinegar with sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, and ground pepper. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking, to create an emulsion. Drizzle it over the grapefruit, cabbage, and fennel, and garnish with the fennel fronds.

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