I have been reveling in these longer days and warmer temps! One of my favorite ways to celebrate the changing seasons is to adjust the food I’m making. This dish is a perfect spring salad (although to be honest, it would make a lovely side salad at anytime of the year). It’s full of bright, fresh flavors with the satisfying mixture of sweet grapes and peppery arugula.
Fennel & Arugula Salad with Grapes and Toasted Walnuts Ingredients:
1 box or bag of baby arugula, washed
1 medium-sized fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 bunch of grapes, rinsed and halved (I used muscat grapes and they were outstanding!)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
Juice from 2 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon raw honey
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the fennel bulb and remove the green stems. Slice into paper-thin pieces using a mandolin, vegetable peeler, or a sharp knife.
Wash the grapes well (remember, they are on the Dirty Dozen, so it’s important to buy them organic whenever possible) and cut them in half. Toss the grapes, shaved fennel, and arugula together in a large bowl.
Toast the walnuts on medium/high in a dry pan. Check them often to make sure they don’t burn and jiggle the pan around to make sure all sides of the nuts are being toasted. Add a pinch of salt to the pan while they are toasting.
Use a jar to mix up the dressing (lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper). It’s actually the same dressing that I use for my Tuscan Kale Salad, so don’t be afraid to make a double batch and enjoy the kale salad later in the week.
Toss in the hot walnuts once they are toasted and mix everything together well.
This salad is delicious served right away when the walnuts are still warm, but also makes a nice leftover salad if that works better for you. With ingredients like these it’s hard to go wrong.
Toasting the walnuts is key to this recipe, so don’t take a shortcut and throw in raw walnuts. First of all, the salty toasted walnuts add a rich cheesy flavor to the salad, which is nice since this salad is vegan. But secondly, toasting the walnuts actually increases their nutritional content. Most nuts contain phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient that can bind to other healthy minerals (like iron, zinc, and calcium) and pull them out of the body. Interestingly, the phytic acid can be removed from nuts by soaking or toasting them. I tend to lean towards toasting – it’s easier for me and makes nuts taste so good.
The phytic acid in raw nuts is no reason to avoid them all together, but it is a nice reminder to toast or soak them when it works for you. Like everything, the key is moderation.
This salad compliments just about any main dish, but here are a few ideas to get you started – Curried Millet Cakes, Balsamic Mushroom Toasts, Roasted Eggplant with Feta & Caramelized Onions, and Zucchini Mint Fritters. Yum!