Trim and slice very, very thinly on a mandoline or with a sharp knife:
1 large fennel bulb
I’ve always been a stalwart summer cook. A love of baking combined with an abundance of beautiful produce from several incredible farmers’ markets has kept my stove cranked, and, to be honest, this is the first year I’ve had air conditioning. Somehow, I never minded the sweat.
But this year, something’s different. Maybe it’s the obnoxiously hot and humid days that started in early May and haven’t abated since. Maybe it’s that cooking all day has made me want to cook as little as possible in the evenings. But mostly, I’ve come to realize that you don’t have to cook (as in, the application of heat to raw ingredients) to cook.
Cooking can be as simple as assembling a salad or making a tomato sandwich. Cooking always requires some degree of effort, but that doesn’t mean it has to be fussy or laborious. In fact, some of the most beautiful and delicious dishes you make may be raw. Knowing how to use ingredients—how to choose them on the shelf or at the market, how to store and clean them, how to cut them and prepare them, and how to present them—is just as important, if not more so, than the cooking process itself. After all, if an elegant dish is prepared with poor ingredients, the result will reflect that.
So, in honor of cooking without the heat, each week this summer, through mid-September, I’ll be posting a recipe that doesn’t require you to turn on the stove. So I guess you could call this series Stand Facing the Cutting Board.
In a small bowl, macerate using a muddle or the handle-end of a wooden spoon:
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Pour in slowly, whisking constantly:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a salad bowl, combine:
2 1/2 cups stale bread cubes or homemade croutons
1/2 a large, hothouse cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large tomato, roughly chopped, or 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup dill or fennel fronds, roughly chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, torn
Handful of basil leaves, torn
(1/4 cup crumbled feta or shaved parmesan)
Toss the salad ingredients together, and add the dressing, tossing again to coat. Serve immediately.