Arabba fennel salad, cold or hot

A skiing week in a rented apartment usually means serious culinary constraints. So, we have picked the location that is close to the slopes, so that we do not have to take a bus, or walk for 20 minutes in ski boots, and that is not going to break the bank – but other considerations, such as well-equipped kitchen or proximity to the shops inevitably were of secondary importance. We could eat in the resturant, sure, but if we could afford the extortionate prices the resort eateries charge, then presumably we could have stayed in a proper hotel instead of a holiday apartment? Be it as it may, the situation is this: we are in an unfamiliar kitchen, with an unpredictable assemblage of pots, pans and utensils, but with the basic ingredients, such as olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper, probably missing. It is half an hour walk to get the groceries. What do we do?

Not a salad First, make an inventory of the kitchen equipment, check if there is a working oven, look in the cupboards for any remaining herbs and spices. Then set off on a trip to the shops, and get the basics such as olive oil, herbs etc. to last you a week. Then look for some nice, local ingredients that could be made into a meal. This might be the most challenging step, since in our daily lives we are probably used to a selection of ingredients that are unobtainable in an average grocery store in a skiing resort; conversely, depending on a region, you might find some unfamiliar, but enticing provisions. Keeping in mind the constraints of the rented kitchen, one potential approach to cooking on a skiing trip is to keep things simple, with few ingredients and uncomplicated preparation. It is a good idea to keep a few recipes that use only widely available ingredients up your sleeve, and impress your party with the ingenuity in the face of adverse culinary conditions.

So, here is one simple idea, which I cooked up – metaphorically, as well as literally – on the recent Italian trip. All ingredients should be easily available in Italy:

  • a half of large fennel
  • one apple
  • a handful of shelled walnuts
  • extra virign olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar (optionally)

We will need a working oven, but in my experience it is usually available. Put the walnuts on a roasting tray – no need to add any fat, they are very fatty by themselves – and roast for 30 minutes at a low temperature, 120°C should be fine. Meanwhile, cube the apple (no need to peel) and the fennel. Once the walnuts are roasted and cooled, mix everything in a bowl, add a splash of olive oil, and (optionally) a little bit of balsamic vinegar. That is it. This salad is good on its own, but can also be used as an accompaniment to mountain cheeses.

As a bonus, a discovery my mum made: if you had some salad left over in the fridge, and do not fancy eating it cold – it is winter, after all! – you can fry it briefly on a pan, with a little bit of butter. I have not tried that, but reportedly it is delicious!

30/03/2018