Ingredient of the Week: Fennel

Fennel (c)2012

The daffodils are blooming, fields are taking on a green hue, and my shoulders are warmed by the sun, even though cool breezes brush my skin. Spring is here, there’s no denying it. This week at la Domestique, we open up the spring pantry. It’s an exciting time. The kitchen cupboards are full of bright, fresh ingredients for cooking lighter fare. Gone are the hearty stews and rich casseroles. Now is a time for salads, light soups, crudités, delicate fish, pasta, and cooking outside on the grill. Spring is not an aggressively flavored season, it’s about nuance- the mild flavor of fresh chives growing wild in the meadow, sweet and dainty pea shoots, tender lettuces and fresh garlic. If summer is obscenely bountiful, spring is a series of small celebrations: finding asparagus at market, the thrill of short-seasoned purple sprouting broccoli, that first radish pulled from the soil. We want fresh veg so badly we can almost taste it, but mother nature makes us wait until it’s time, dolling out the occasional reward for our patience. The first ingredient of the spring pantry is just what we need right now- something green, fresh, and herbal: fennel.


This Past Week at La Domestique: Salad Greens

Last week at La Domestique was all about celebrating the final week of spring with salad greens. My spring garden in Colorado is peaking and I’m overwhelmed with salad greens. This past week at La Domestique was not a cover album of classic salads, it was full of fresh ideas for cooking in the moment. The focus was on getting to know salad greens better- their flavors and textures. The garden and farmer’s market is where to look for inspiration when you’re in a salad rut. Seek out one exotic fruit or unique vegetable to inspire your next salad. Discover the pleasure of homemade salad dressing. Cook in the moment with me!

Just in case you missed anything, I’ve got a recap for you!

Weekly Recap:

  • Monday:  Announcing salad greens as the ingredient of the week.
  • Tuesday:  10 Ways Tuesday! Learn 10 spring inspired ways to jazz up salad greens from garnishing with edible flowers to playing with color and texture. If you’re tired of salad I’ve got some new ideas.
  • Wednesday:  A La Domestique recipe for Beet Salad with Strawberry-Ginger Vinaigrette.
  • Thursday:  Read the story behind salad greens like arugula, spinach, and lettuces. Check out the photo collage plus tips on growing, harvesting, storing, and preparing salad greens. Learn how to make your own vinaigrette!
  • Friday:  A beautiful spring salad inspired by my Colorado garden and garlic scapes from the Boulder Farmers Market.

I hope you enjoyed this past week and can’t wait to see you Monday for the first week of the summer pantry at!


A Colorado Garden Salad

Oh salad! You are so lovely, how could I ever take you for granted?

Seriously, gardens make salads so much better than supermarkets. Garden salads are delicate. They are high maintenance. You’ve got to harvest the tender greens and then you’ve got to wash all the dirt off gently. If you’re rough with garden greens they wilt and bruise and fall apart. Supermarket greens are sturdy and don’t mind hanging out in a pre-packaged plastic bag for two weeks. Their flavor can’t be compared to the flavor of garden greens, though. Lettuce from the garden is sweet and buttery soft. I know this sounds crazy but, lettuce from the garden has life!

I made a salad for you today. I got up early and went to my community garden plot where I harvested some romaine and salad bowl lettuce. While I was there I snipped some dill. Then, I got inspired. The little violas caught my eye and I knew they were destined for this salad. Did you know you can eat violas? It’s true.


Storyboard: Salad Greens

Salad Greens Storyboard (c)2011


Salad Greens

The ingredient of the week at La Domestique is salad greens with a focus on lettuces, arugula, and spinach. Each variety is unique with its own flavor and requirements for care and storage. Salad greens are rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin A and C. The darker the green, the more nutrients it has. The best place to get salad greens is your own garden or the local farmer’s market. I always find prepackaged salad greens in the grocery store to be disappointing- flavorless, wilted, and sometimes even slimy. If you must purchase greens at the supermarket, select them from a bulk bin and look for suppliers as close to your home as possible. Get to know what day your grocer receives produce deliveries and shop on that day.

Types of Salad Greens



According to the Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion there are four general categories for lettuce: Butterhead, Crisphead, Leaf, and Romaine. Head lettuces are harvested whole, while leaf lettuces grow in a loose bunch. Leaf lettuces are harvested by cutting off the leaves, which will grow back and can be harvested again. Leaf lettuces have a more crisp texture and interesting flavor than head lettuces. However, leaf lettuces are more delicate and perishable. Leaf lettuces include oak leaf, salad bowl, red leaf, and green leaf. In Chez Panisse Vegetables Alice Waters writes that “mesclun” is a French word meaning “mixed” and it is traditionally a collection of foraged wild greens. These days it is usually a cultivated mix of dandelion greens, lettuces, peppery arugula, and chervil.


Cook in the Moment: Salad Greens with Strawberry-Ginger Vinaigrette

Beet Salad (c)2011

My garden was the inspiration for today’s salad of spinach, baby beets, and beet greens with Strawberry-Ginger Vinaigrette. I planted a couple of rows of red and golden beets, which were in need of some thinning out to allow the sturdier plants more room to grow. Happily, I plucked the tiny beets from the soil. They smelled sweet and earthy. Just as mothers always do,  I thought my little baby beets to be quite cute. Their slightly bitter green tops pair nicely with the sweet flavor of spinach in a salad.

A balance of different textures is important in keeping salad interesting. I racked my brain trying to figure out how to add some crunch to my salad. Nuts? No, something different. Croutons? Nope. Then it came to me- wheat berries! I love the al dente bite of wheat berries. The plump cooked grain kind of pops in your mouth. It’s quite nice. I decided to use cooked wheat berries for added texture in my salad.