April 22, 2013
Last week was long. Stressful. Sad. Angering. It was also full of love. Help. Togetherness. Hope, even. In the wake of it all, I just wanted to spend the weekend at home, cozied up with family. And eating, of course. Eating always makes things better. The problem was that I didn’t feel much like cooking. I was wiped.
So, to recap: I wanted to be at home, feel cozy and share a big, comforting meal with my boys, but without doing much cooking. There was only one answer and it had nothing to do with getting the hungry papa in the kitchen.
A simple Italian meal clearly was in order.
Lucky for me, I recently got my hands on Homemade with Love, the new cookbook by Jennifer Perillo which turned out to be the perfect inspiration this weekend. Jennifer’s food is all about comfort, love and family, so I knew I’d find something that I wanted to make. Sure enough, I did: a fennel and chickpea salad.
Jennifer’s recipe calls for hazelnuts. I’ve eaten her version (made by her—lucky me!) and it’s delicious. I didn’t have hazelnuts on hand and, as you can imagine, didn’t feel like running out to get some. I substituted almonds; it’s the only change I made to Jennie’s recipe. We loved it and I’d use almonds again, but you should use hazelnuts if you want to stay true to Jennie’s vision. You should also check out her book. Seriously: here’s why.
In addition to the godsend that was Jennie’s book, I’d also like to say: thank HEAVENS for the pesto in my freezer. I tossed a thawed batch with pasta, steamed green beans, a little lemon zest and some fresh ricotta. Alongside the fennel salad, our simple Italian meal felt abundant, warm and homey. It was just what I needed: easy but still fresh, delicious and shared with the people I love most.
I hope that you, too, were able to share a comfort with people you love this weekend.
Fennel, Chickpea and Almond Salad
barely adapted from Homemade with Love by Jennifer Perillo
(can be shared with kids 12+ mos)*
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (OHM note: you can substitute drained and rinsed canned chickpeas)
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, torn into pieces
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Marcona almonds, coarsely chopped (OHM note: you can substitute roasted almonds)
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, and lemon juice until well mixed. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste. Add the fennel, chickpeas, parsley, and cheese to the bowl. Toss together to combine. To serve, spoon the salad onto a large platter, and sprinkle the almonds on top.
TIME SAVER You can prepare the salad up to an hour in advance, and let it sit at room temperature. The flavors have time to marinate this way, making it taste even better. Just wait to add the almonds until you’re ready to serve it so they stay crunchy.
*Note: While there is nothing in this that is necessarily unsafe for younger kids, I recommend this salad beginning at 12 mos since the texture of the fennel may be a challenge for beginner eaters. Be sure to cut the ingredients in the salad to an age appropriate bite size, and keep in mind that almonds are considered a high allergen food. That shouldn’t stop you from sharing this with little ones—current AAP guidelines are clear that there is no proven medical benefit to holding off on high allergen foods such as nuts—just proceed with caution and speak to your pediatrician, especially if your child or anyone in your family has a history of food allergies.