recipe, salad, vegetable

Cranberry Carrot Salad with Fennel Croutons + 5 Tips for Serving a Beautiful Salad

I think what makes salads appetizing, especially when you’re at a restaurant, is when they’ve chocked full of stuff. Piled high with flavours and textures; drizzled in a variety of oils and vinegars, and mouthfuls of homemade croutons for an incredible crunch!

Making a beautiful salad at home is totally possible, you just need a bit of prep and a creative touch!

 

Here are my 5 tips for serving a beautiful salad at home:

  1. Don’t toss your salad for serving; rather, layer your ingredients strategically so it becomes a treat for the eyes- try to make each ingredient partially visible
  2. Serve your salad in a shallow bowl,ย  or a ribbed plate, and focus on adding height and glamour to the dish
  3. Drizzle your balsamic and oil on in a playful motion right before serving: try circles, zig-zags, or even a variety of the two
  4. Layer your salad by weight: the denser items (tomatoes, cucumbers) should be at the bottom; less dense items like fresh herbs and croutons should be sprinkled on the top
  5. When possible, include fresh herbs and fruits- fresh or dried- as they instantly add texture and aromatic elements

IMG_3815

This Cranberry Carrot Salad with Fennel Croutons is a great salad to serve during late spring or early summer, as it uses up some of the stray vegetables from the winter, like carrots, and incorporates some produce we’ve missed for months like fresh herbs and tomatoes!

I have two recommendations for this salad though: homemade croutons are worth the extra effort, and try to find dried whole cranberries.

Homemade croutons taste infinitely better than any store-bought variety. Especially if you season them with good olive oil, salt and pepper, and in this case, dried fennel. The ones made with stale baguette are the best, I think. Once baked and cooled completely, they can keep on your counter for a week sealed in an air-tight container.

Whole cranberries are hard to find- most of the dried cranberries in supermarkets are really just cranberry skins coated in sugar syrup (producers use cranberries primarily for cranberry juice and the dried skins are a way to reduce production waste). If you look hard enough you should be able to find dried whole cranberries that are lightly sweetened: they have a delicious texture as the tiny seeds add a delicate crunch, and they’re much more flavourful because the juice is still inside.

 

Cranberry Carrot Salad with Fennel Croutons

Ingredients:

For the fennel croutons

  • about one half of a french baguette, ideally one or two days old so it is getting hard, cut into about 2-cm thick cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried fennel, ground in a spice mill or by mortar and pestle

For the cranberry carrot salad

  • 2 cups carrots, shredded
  • 1 medium sized tomato, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp dried fennel, whole
  • 1/4 cup lightly sweetened dried cranberries, preferably whole (I got mine at Dรฉlices ร‰rable et Cie)
  • 2 tbsp balsamic reduction
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Toss together the bread cubes, oil, salt and pepper to taste, and the ground fennel. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until crunchy and slightly golden. Allow to cool on the pan.
  2. To serve the salad, lay your tomato slices along the outside of the serving platter and then pile your grated carrots in the middle of the dish. Sprinkle with the parsley, fennel and cranberries. Right before serving, top with croutons and drizzle on the balsamic reduction and olive oil.