The Lighter Shade of Green
Spring always means lightening up my diet. Gone are the comfort foods of winter that rely on too many animal-based proteins and carb-rich sides. Instead, spring green beckons! I’m on the lookout for bright, flavorful, healthy, and easily prepared vegetables.
Two favorite pale green offerings to explore this spring are fennel and avocado.
Fennel is one of the most versatile vegetables around. Used fresh, is has a mild licorice flavor that adds crunch and contrast to salads or a crudité platter. Roasted, it accompanies meats or adds a lighter note to a pan of roasted vegetables. Use it instead of celery as a base for a vegetable soup or as part of a mirepoix mix.
When picking fennel, look for pale green, tight bulbs. If the bulbs have frilly tops, they can add flavor to salads or other dishes. I usually just cut them off and add them to my frozen bag of vegetable scraps and chicken carcasses, to make base for fresh chicken soup.
Slice the bottom and top off each bulb and cut vertically into ¼-inch slices. Spread on a flat sheet pan and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, turn over, brush with more oil and salt and continue roasting until they are brown, and a fork can pierce them easily. They go well with pork and chicken, and make a good light side to fish dishes.
Fennel Roasted with Herbs
Fennel combines well with quartered red onions and quartered waxy potatoes. Toss them all with oil, salt and other spices of choice such as sumac, herbes de Provence, or oregano. Roast at 400 degrees, checking every 15 minutes and stirring to get all surfaces evenly browned. When all the vegetables are tender, sprinkle them with a splash of balsamic vinegar to give them a nice hit of acid. They can be served hot or at room temperature.
Fresh Fennel in Salads
Quarter fennel bulbs and remove the core. Slice finely in a processor or by hand and toss the fennel with a light lemon vinaigrette. Add some tamed (see note) red onions or sliced green onions, and other vegetables, like tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, or shaved carrots. Dress with your favorite vinaigrette and consider swapping vinegar for a mix of lemon or other citrus juice.
Note: Tamed red onions.An easy way to take bitterness out of onions is to slice them, put in a microwavable bowl, and add 3 tablespoons of vinegar. Heat for 3 minutes. The vinegar can be part of the dressing, and the onions are mild and sweet.
Fennel pairs well with citrus and avocado. Try the recipe below and appreciate the great mix of citrus, crunch and smoothness.
It’s time to explore things to do with avocado that isn’t guacamole! The fruit that Brits call alligator pears is super healthy. They contain vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and even protein. The mild flavor partners well with stronger herbs and spices.
By now you know that avocados are the new darling for healthy eating. Avocado toast with its many variations can be found on breakfast menus and is among the simplest way to get a tasty dose of this healthy food.
To make sure your avocados ripen evenly, buy them hard and let them ripen until just barely tender, and then refrigerate them.
For an easy and elegant lunch, halve them and fill them with a something flavorful, like a scoop of curried chicken salad, spicy shrimp salad, or a dill-flavored tuna salad.
A big spoonful of a good mango chutney is another winning and unexpected flavor combination.
Avocado with Warm Sweet-and-Sour Sauce
I often start meals with a halved avocado filled with a recipe I’ve had since college! It is easy to make, with ingredients that most people have in their pantries.
This sauce is also excellent as a dressing for a wilted Spinach salad or can be used as an easy barbecue sauce for grilled meats.
Start with 2 tablespoons of each of these 5 ingredients for 2 avocados: butter, sugar, cider vinegar (or other vinegar), Worcestershire sauce, ketchup.
Combine them in a small pan or microwavable bowl. Heat until the butter melts. Stir and spoon over halved or sliced avocados
Avocado, Fennel, and Citrus Salad
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced—keep a few fronds aside for sprinkling on top
Selection of peeled and sliced citrus: mandarin, cara cara orange, satsuma, grapefruit, blood orange—for total of 2 pounds.
Layer in a salad bowl with the fennel first, the citrus next, and the avocado slices on top.
Dress with a vinaigrette that includes a teaspoon each of mustard and honey, and blended with lemon juice to taste.
In the beginning, there was food! Before Rebecca Crichton worked for Boeing, taught leadership development, or became executive director of the Northwest Center for Creative Aging, she was a caterer, recipe developer, and food journalist. She has taught cooking to seniors and others, and she can reel off food ideas and recipes for any part of a meal or event. She believes in easily prepared, healthy, and taste-filled food that delights and satisfies.