I signed up for a CSA box this year, and I can’t quite decide if I like it or not. The quality of the produce has been (mostly) very high and I like the concept of supporting small local farmers, but I’ve found myself going to the farmers market less frequently because I have a fridge full of CSA produce at home and more importantly I miss getting to pick out my own produce. The mix in the CSA box just isn’t what I usually eat. There’s a lot of salad greens…and while I like salad, I think I’d have to eat it every day to keep up with the amount in the boxes. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I can support small, local, organic farmers by simply going to the farmers market and buying their produce there. And not paying for things I don’t particularly want.
But there are some pleasant surprises in the box every week. This week I was happy to see a few small heads of fennel. I’m a big fan of fennel and generally prefer to eat it raw, sliced thin and lightly dressed. I love its anise-y crunch, and I love serving it to people who are sure they won’t like it because they don’t like licorice. Fennel has such a wonderful, subtle, fresh flavor.
I also had half a watermelon left from a BBQ over the weekend. I’ve noticed over the last few years that watermelons have seemed more bland than I remember them. Not this one though…it was sweet, juicy and flavorful. Ripe, but not overripe and grainy. I think this is also the first seeded watermelon I’ve bought in a while. I’ve been seduced by the convenience of the seedless watermelons, but after this one I have to wonder if I’m giving up flavor for convenience. That’s definitely not a trade I want to make.
So, I took the fennel, watermelon, a cucumber from the CSA box and a bit of blue cheese…presto! Quick delicious summer salad. This couldn’t be easier and was delicious. I was a bit concerned about whether the Miss would eat this…she loves everything in it but the fennel (which she’d never had.) Turns out the only thing she didn’t like was the chopped fennel fronds. She happily ate the rest, which made me quite pleased.
Crumble the blue cheese very finely. This allows the blue cheese to be present in every bite without ever overwhelming the other delicate flavors. The salad will give off a good bit of liquid when you add the salt. If you’re worried about presentation, make the salad a bit in advance, let it sit for 15-30 minutes, then drain off the excess liquid.
Serves 6 as a side dish
2 small bulbs fennel, thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
2 1/2 cups watermelon, in 1/2″ cubes
fronds from 1 bulb fennel, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Gently toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Let sit for at least 30 min to allow the flavors to come together. Serve at or slightly below room temperature.
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