FENNEL AND FETA SALAD WITH BACON

I went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and I saw this very fresh and beautiful Fennel bulb that I had to buy as well as some super fresh assorted baby lettuces, so on Monday night I found a great use for this produce in this salad. My recipe is inspired by a Food and Wine Recipe entitled Spinach and Fennel Salad with Candied Bacon . The F&W recipe uses A LOT of bacon and sugar, so I lightened the recipe by adding more vegetables, cutting out the “candied” part of the bacon and using 75% less bacon. I feel that just a little bacon adds a lot of punch, no need to go overboard. Yum! Try it out and let me know what you think.

Ingredients:

• 2 slices of thick-cut Applewood Smoked Bacon
• 1 medium sized fennel bulb. Halved, cored and sliced very thinly
• 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for the dressing plus some extra for drizzling on the fennel)
• salt and freshly ground pepper
• 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
• 1 ½ tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
• 1 ½ tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (this is very different from regular balsamic vinegar — I like it in this dressing because it is slightly sweet to contrast with the savory bacon and feta –if you don’t have any use a white wine vinegar and add a little more honey)
• ½–1 teaspoon of honey
• ~8 oz. mixed baby lettuce 
• 1 large heirloom tomato (or whatever is available), cubed
• 4 radishes, thinly sliced
• Fresh feta cheese to sprinkle over the top
• 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, lightly toasted

Procedure:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees
2. Cook 2 pieces of bacon on a foil-lined baking sheet for 15 minutes or until desired doneness (I often cook more and put some of it into my son’s lunch box that week). Lay cooked bacon on a plate with several paper towels to absorb as much grease as possible. Let the bacon cool and then chop into small pieces.
3. At the same time lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Add sliced fennel and lightly drizzle a little olive oil onto the fennel and season with a little salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes or until soft and starting to brown a bit. Remove from oven and let cool.
4. In a small container whisk the Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar, honey, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and a several grinds of fresh black pepper. Set aside.
5. Conbine the tomato, radishes, lettuce, fennel, bacon, feta and pine nuts. Toss with the reserved dressing and serve.

Serves 4. Pairs nicely with an unoaked Chardonnay or Chablis