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The Unexpected Gifts of a Washed Out Saturday

watercress fennel salad

So Marge. A few of you have asked how things are going. I love that. Thank you. Things are plugging along. I’m adding another farmer’s market onto the weekend docket in a month or so and testing some new pie recipes. It’s good. It’s all good. But I have to say: when it’s 38 degrees, rainy, and “ski week” for the kids in school (don’t ask–it’s a California thing) the market is pretty darn slow. That was the case last weekend. And I don’t blame people. If I wasn’t working, you couldn’t have paid me to get off the couch in that weather. It was a pretty surreal experience though: baking a lot of pie and having very few customers come through the market. I gave some slices away to local businesses, telling them all about Marge. They were thrilled. Pie makes people very happy. I made some last minute pie deals at the end of the day. And then I got smart.

I started to trade like all the other vendors do. The sausage guy traded a pie for some bratwurst. I got a few slats of micro greens, some pesto, stinging nettle ravioli and a bunch of chard, lemons, and fennel. Could be worse. I made simple meals with the greens, lemons, and bratwurst. But I’ve been sitting here staring at the fennel in the fridge for days now. What to do, what to do? I consulted the incredible, new-ish Essential New York Times Cookbook for ideas and found just the thing: a bright, wintry salad cloaked in a citrus dressing of fresh orange juice and walnut oil and topped with toasted walnuts.

citrus dressing

This salad will, I promise, brighten up even the darkest and chilliest of afternoons. It will make you forget about the fact that you gave away a lot of pie on a particularly slow day at the market.

watercress fennel salad

Watercress, Orange and Fennel Salad
Slightly adapted from: The Essential New York Times Cookbook
The recipe, as written, is absolutely lovely. I opted to swap out the extra virgin olive oil for a toasty walnut oil that I think it works really well with the brightness of the orange juice in the dressing. If you don’t have walnut oil on hand, olive oil will work just fine. And a note on fennel: when the recipe discusses the fronds, those are the delicate, almost frilly leaves connected to the stalks. As the directions indicate, you’ll reserve them to lay atop the salad.

Ingredients:
1 bunch watercress
1 large fennel bulb
2 large navel orange (reserve one to juice for the dressing)
1 tablespoon walnut oil
Salt, Pepper to season
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Directions:
1. Wash the watercress and cut off the stems. Place leaves in your favorite salad bowl.
2. Cut the fronds off the fennel stalks and reserve. Discard the stalks. Mince the fronds and set aside. Cut a slice off of the bottom of the bulb, then cut it lengthwise in half. Slice the halves crosswise into thin slices and lay in with the watercress.
3. Remove the orange peel by slicing off the top and bottom of the orange. Cut around the orange with a serrated knife, using a sawing motion to cut off the white pith as well as the peel. Slice the oranges into thin rounds and add to the salad.
4. Juice one orange for the dressing. Mix the walnut oil and 1/3 cup fresh orange juice together and season with salt and pepper. Mix with the salt, and sprinkle with the minced fennel leaves and toasted walnuts.

Serves: 3-4 as a small side

  1. Posted February 24, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Who knew this trading went on behind the scenes? Seems kind of fun, although I’m sure you’d rather just sell the pies. It’s a pretty nice fallback option. Your salad looks beautiful.

  2. Posted February 24, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Glad you were able to make the best of the situation! In my experience one of the great things about going to markets is building relationships with the other vendors as well as customers. I hope the weather gets better and lots of people show up hungry for pie (and all of your other delicious treats)!

  3. Posted February 24, 2011 at 9:49 am

    I always hate to see the farmer’s market so empty on a dreary day, but man, this whole trading deal sounds pretty awesome. Such a good idea! When you’ve got lemons, you’ve gotta make lemonade. And I bet you make a damn good one, Megan!

  4. Posted February 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    The perfect thing to do; love that you swapped out dinner with a few pies.

    Watercress is one of my favorite greens. We use to pick it as kids; it grew wild in the creek beds. Tossed together with a zippy basque garlic dressing, it was perfect.

  5. Lori
    Posted February 24, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    I so look forward to reading your posts, Megan. Keep baking, the market will pick up soon!

  6. Suzanne Toaspern-Holm
    Posted February 24, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Yummmm, the salad looks perfect. Just read about citrus fennel salad in today’s Chron. Alas no recipe, and here is a perfect recipe from you. I love cooking with what I have on hand. That’s what you did with all your trades. Best of luck with Marge. Suz

  7. Posted February 24, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    I’m jealous. I’ve always wanted to trade goods at a market. Soak it up!

  8. Marjorie
    Posted February 24, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Fennel tastes like licorice–but I was very excited to see another post so soon after the last! MORE BLOGGING LESS BAKING! …maybe not

  9. Hope Johnson
    Posted February 24, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Bit of a bummer about the slow market day! But everything is ebbs and flows. At least you faced the fear of a slow market day and came out with a tasty salad!

  10. Posted February 25, 2011 at 1:32 am

    Last December a friend and I had a house party for jewelry and cookies, aside from friends & fam, very few people came by because it was below freezing and the roads were slippery. We ended up trading stuff, and our friends got discounted gifts, too. Love that. Well, of course, selling would have been better, but we just had to make the best of it. Here’s to a better weekend, Megan!

    I’m not a big salad person, but I would gladly dive into a plate of yours! Never had fennel bulb for salad…I should try it one of these days.

  11. Posted February 25, 2011 at 8:01 am

    What a brilliant idea!
    Why is your Marge logo so small on your site. Beef it up. I have been wondering how you are doing as my business just started in January and is doing much better than I exepcted (Taste Tripping: Culinary Tours Travel and Cooking Classes).
    I started with the cooking classes and they have been going great guns. I don’t think you have been around lately to see my site, have you? I have actually been thinking and wondering how your new venture was going… and trading with other vendors on a rainy day is BRILLIANT. Kudos to you – and what a wonderful salad!
    :)
    valerie

  12. Posted February 25, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Um, YUM. One of my favorite salads at a restaurant in the Chicago suburbs (Honey) uses fennel and it’s soooo good. Reminds me of anise.

  13. Posted February 25, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I’ve been wanting to buy walnut oil…you have me convinced I need to put my coat on and go to the store now. Also…I’m kind of obsessed with this combo. I had it at Danielle’s house (champagne party!) and have been hooked on it ever since! You shoulda been there!

  14. Posted February 25, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    The salad looks great. I’m glad to hear you were able to make some swaps for this delicious salad. Hang in there. It’s CA after all– the weather has to improve ;>)

  15. Mary
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Great news about adding another market – go Marge! One of Donna Hay’s first mags had a fennel-pasta recipe and I became a fennel convert. Will try yours this weekend. Good luck @ the market today – if I were in Marin snow (the millimeter that was) wouldn’t even keep me away from some pops + pies.

  16. megang
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Thanks, Mary! Yep there are some things in the works. How silly was that “snow”?! Geesh.

  17. megang
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Would’ve LOVED to be there. So bummed to have missed it :(

  18. megang
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Hi Valerie! I know…I’m desperately behind in my food blog reading! Are you talking about the actual website or the blog (re: the logo?) We put the words “Marge” big big big on the site but didn’t think we needed to integrate the whole logo. Happy to hear your thoughts though! I’m so happy to hear thatyour classes are going well–especially in this economy: that’s huge! Thanks for your sweet comment. xo.

  19. megang
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 7:44 am

    Oh, I know El. You East Coasters would laugh at the way our weather people talk about potential snow. People make a beeline to Costco and cancel work obligations. So silly.

  20. Posted February 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    You know I would have bought up all that pie if I had been there. I’m glad that you are settled and I can totally relate to your abhorrence of moving. It is my least favorite thing to do and only gets harder as you get older and acquire more stuff. I hope to visit the Bay area sometime in the next few months and would love to see you in action!

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