"Fennel has a similar texture to celery and a sweet licorice-like flavor and is delicious raw in a salad or cooked," Comerford wrote in American Grown. "You can use any pear you like; Bose, Anjou, Comice and Bartlett all work well."
A member of the White House kitchen staff since 1997, Comerford this week marked her fourth anniversary of being reappointed to her post as Top Toque by Mrs. Obama, who made the announcement on Jan. 9, 2009, ahead of President Obama's first inauguration. Longtime White House observers might remember the weeks of the Transition period, when "good food" advocates were publicly calling for Mrs. Obama to make the White House kitchen a "bully pulpit" for healthy eating. At the time, no one knew that Mrs. Obama had plans beyond all imagining--or that Sam Kass would accompany the First Family to the White House. The rest, as they say, is history.
The salad makes an ideal side for winter comfort foods, such as roasted meats, stews and soups. It is served at White House luncheons and larger receptions, Comerford said, because it is wilt-proof and retains its texture. The recipe serves four. Check the sidebar for all White House recipes.
*1 Fennel bulb, washed and trimmed
*1 ripe Pear
*Juice of 1/2 Lemon (about 1 Tablespoon)
*1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
*1/2 Shallot, minced
*1 1/2 Teaspoons Honey
*4 1/2 Teaspoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
*1 1/2 Teaspoons chopped fresh flat leaf Parlsey
*2 Ounces Parmesan Cheese, shaved
*1/2 Cup Roasted Walnuts
*Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
1. Cut the fennel bulb in half, slice it crosswise into the thinnest possible slices, and set aside.
2. Halve, stem, and core the pear. Slice it the same thickness as the fennel, and then cut the pieces into 1/4 inch strips. Place in a medium glass or stainless steel mixing bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Add the sliced fennel.
3. In a small mixing bowl, add the apple cider vinegar, shallot and honey. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
4. Add the vinaigrette and parsley to the fennel and pear mixture. Toss gently. Place on a platter and garnish with the shaved Parmesan cheese and roasted walnuts.
**To roast walnuts: Place on a flat pan and place in 350 degree oven for between 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn. Walnuts are done when "skin" begins to flake off.
Reprinted from American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama. Copyright © 2012 by the National Park Foundation. Published by Crown, a division of Random House, Inc.
*Top and salad photo by Quentin Bacon for American Grown; Comerford photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama