Whenever I travel to tropical places my eating habits change drastically. I tend to eat smaller meals more often during the day and I tend to eat lighter meals with minimal carbs, fat, and protein. The same can be said when summer rolls around Calgary, my eating habits switch from rich stews and soups to grilled sandwiches and salads with a refreshing twist.
Summer is the perfect time for anyone looking to change their diet to suit a healthy streak. A myriad of fresh fruits and vegetables become available from the Okanagan, vegetables are at their best and freshest and seeing everyone out and about hiking, jogging and cycling really gets your excitement levels up. So why not change your cooking style to suit the light active season?
Moving from heavy rich foods to light foods doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavour. We all know that the fat in bacon and a well marbled steak provides great flavours, but a combination of sour, sweet, and savoury can provide the same satisfying tastes. Take mint and crème fraiche for example, is light on your pallet but still provides the rich creaminess and a sharpness from the mint. Mixed with watermelon, cucumber and topped with a little fried chicken, it is a great summer meal.
My favourite summer salad is a fennel salad. The subtle liquorish flavour combined with some citrus juices, their crunchy texture really helps to cleanse and lift the palate, not to mention benefits your digestive system. Combined with pears, one of my favourite fruits, it makes a classic salad with beautiful pale colors and a classic sweet and sour profile.
Fennel is so flexible that you can pair it with most fruits to create salads, apple and wasabi being another good combination, cooked such as baked with cheese, or simply grilled on the BBQ. Even adding thinly sliced fennel to your standard salad can change the profile of the entire meal.
This summer, try changing up your diet to suit the lifestyle that you want. Try fresh new products that lighten up your dishes and create new refreshing tastes and textures on your summer table.
Gabriel Hall is a business and technology strategist, a freelance writer, a world traveler, a seeker of gastronomic experiences, and a lover of all things hedonistic. His site, Le Voyage Gourmand and twitter @voyagegourmand is a catalogue of his global experiences and thoughts.
LVG’s Citrus Fennel and Vanilla Poached Pear Salad
- 2 bulbs of fennel
- 1 lemon
- 1 lime
- 4 un-ripened pears
- 100 ml vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3 cups water
- 8 mint leaves
- Olive Oil
Poaching the Pears
You’ll want to use a rather firm, unripe pear. This ensures that the pear doesn’t disintegrate during cooking creating a goopy mess. Start by peeling the pears and the slicing off as much meat as you can from the core. Resourceful cooks will save the core for other applications. Slice the pieces of pear into 3-5 mm thin strips and set aside.
In a pot place combine the sugar, vanilla, and water. Bring up to a medium temperature, but don’t boil the solution, then add a pinch of salt. Add the pears and steep without boiling the mixture for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Once cooled, place the pot in the fridge overnight to allow flavours to intermingle and penetrate into the pear.
The pears should still have texture and not fall apart when you pick up the slices. Before using, drain the pear. You can save the sugar water as it can easily be used for reductions, flavoured simple syrups for drinks, or a number of other applications.
Making the salad
Take the tops off the bulbs of fennel. Wash and remove any brown or damaged outer skin. Cut the fennel in half across the root. Place the bulb on the freshly cut flat side and make julienne strips about 3-6 mm wide. I only used 1.5 bulbs as I wanted to maintain a good pear to fennel ratio.
Place the julienne strips of fennel in a bowl. Juice half a lime and half a lemon into the bowl. Add a splash of high quality olive oil and crack some fresh pepper in the bowl. Thinly slice 8 medium to large leaves of mint and add them to the fennel. Toss the fennel by hand to ensure that it is evenly coated by the citrus juices and olive oil.
Add in the drained pears and mix. Plate and top with some more chopped mint if desired.