Fennel and citrus salad with homemade date leather
I may have mentioned before that I am addicted to Master Chef Australia. I am watching the 2014 season and have totally bonded with the home cooks and judges on that show. It’s a stellar season in terms of personalities and the show is so well done that I don’t miss an episode.
Surprisingly, I have learned a lot from watching this and other reality TV food shows. It’s not necessarily recipes but you get ideas and the show makes you look at food in a new and different way. I have never been much of a recipe cook anyway. I tend to get an idea and go with it. However, I could never in a million years do what these home cooks manage to pull off under extreme pressure in a short amount of time. I don’t think I could boil water in these circumstances.
This long story is a way of telling you that the date leather in this recipe is an idea I got from the show. I cannot remember the recipe it was used in but I thought it would be interesting under this bright and fresh citrus salad. Dates and citrus, especially oranges, is a classic pairing and sure enough, it was special and delicious, and easy to make.
The salad itself was a hit, fresh, tangy, crunchy and juicy. It’s definitely a keeper. I didn’t make any special dressing for it. I squeezed the juice from the orange and grapefruit right over the salad and then drizzled with excellent olive oil, a generous sprinkling of salt and a little honey. If you have a lot of juice from the fruits you can reduce it in a small pot until syrupy and pour it over the salad before serving.
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
Salt (and pepper if you wish)
10 ripe medjool dates
To make the date leather:
Peel the dates and remove pit. Chop the dates to break up the larger pieces and place them in the center of a plastic wrap sheet. Cover with a second sheet of plastic wrap and using a rolling pin beat the dates a few times to soften and begin spreading them. Now roll them with the rolling pin like you would a pizza dough until you get a very thin rectangle of dates. At this point it is good to refrigerate the leather so it is easier to handle. When chilled remove from the fridge and remove the top plastic wrap. Turn the date leather over on a sheet of parchment and cut into desired shape. I cut it into rectangles. Place the leather on the salad plates and set aside. This fruit leather is rather sticky, not the dry kind you buy at the store.
To make the salad:
Trim the fennel by cutting off the top part and reserve fronds.
Cut the fennel in half vertically and, using a mandolin, cut into thin slices. Place in a bowl.
Cut orange and grapefruit into segments by cutting off the top and bottom and then cutting the peel and pith and exposing the flesh. Using a sharp knife remove the flesh from the fruits working over the bowl with the fennel and letting the juices drip into the bowl. When you finish segmenting the fruit squeeze the remaining part of the fruit over the bowl to extract as much juice as you can.
Drizzle olive oil and squeeze lemon juice over the salad, then sprinkle liberally with good sea salt.
Add a handful of micro greens and toss to mix.
Pile the salad in the salad bowls over the date leather strips.
Sprinkle with chopped nuts.
Drizzle each salad with a little honey.
If you have a lot of juice left you can reduce it in a small pot until syrupy and drizzle over the salad.