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, Orange and Fennel Salad

Watercress, Orange and Fennel Salad

  • Yield: 3-4 side servings
  • Total time: 10 mins

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 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.

Slightly adapted from: The Essential New York Times Cookbook

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

Instructions

Wash the watercress and cut off the stems. Place leaves in your favorite salad bowl.

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.

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.

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.

Comments

  1. Denise | Chez Danisse

    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. Anna

    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. Kasey

    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. Chez Us

    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

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

  6. Suzanne Toaspern-Holm

    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. sara

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

  8. Marjorie

    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

    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. Joy

    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. A Canadian Foodie

    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

    1. megang

      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.

  12. shannalee

    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. tracy

    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!

    1. megang

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

  14. El

    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 ;>)

    1. megang

      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.

  15. Mary

    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.

    1. megang

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

  16. Dana

    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!

Join the Discussion

Glimpses of Spring

Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine).  Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).

Read More
Quick Pickled Strawberries

Quick Pickled Strawberries

It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers. 

Read More
Feeding Ourselves Well

Feeding Ourselves Well

When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.

Read More
Farro Salad with Arugula, Lemon, Feta and Pistachio

Farro Salad with Arugula, Lemon, Feta and Pistachio

Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen. 

Read More
Whole Grain Any-Fruit Crisp

Whole Grain Any-Fruit Crisp

On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing. 

Read More