A salad of orange . fennel and pale pink langoustines

I have no explanation for how the weeks and months have flown by so quickly that the last time I wrote in my collection of recipes was more than a season ago. In the meanwhile I have been caught up in the pragmatic whirlwind that goes with cooking for a living. A professional kitchen is not unlike an average household; it just has a tighter and more demanding time schedule with less opportunity for flexibility.

When I am overwhelmed with the straightforward line of thinking that goes with my work, the rational can actually overshadow the creative — and when that happens for too long I become decidedly restless. In order to stay down to earth I need the fuel that dreams are made of. . . .

As the necessities of the last work day of the week fade into the freedom of weekend, the peace of mind I need to tell food stories is slowly settling in.

What better way to move from one state of mind to the other than to write about a combination of ingredients as simple and rustic as the Sicilian countryside ? I am referring to the salad recipe below, made from the licorice-like fennel bulb, mixed with the sweet and sour beauty of the blood orange.  I discovered this combination of flavors deep in the winter while wandering through Rome — but this tradition is most definitely Sicilian-grown.

Before fennel and oranges disappear from local market stalls for another year, I hope you will be inspired to make this crunchy-sweet-and-savory mix of colors and textures.

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Tart black currant and cherry salad

Some recipes just happen. Without a plan in mind or a grocery list in hand, all of a sudden ingredients that never seemed to make a match, become a perfect pair. While researching the wooden tables at the farmers market this week, a box of black currants caught my eye. I knew these intensely purple berries would be put to good use, but had no idea at the time that they would become the dressing for a summer salad.

With a bag full of cherries, a handful of arugula, a small goat’s cheese, bunches of carrots, yellow zucchini, oddly shaped tomatoes, white eggplant, purple basil, flowering oregano and the fascinating black currants all packed up, I bicycled my way into the weekend.

While arranging my groceries in the kitchen, I considered the possibilities for the intriguing berries.  The following recipe takes advantage of their startling tartness in a new favorite for the season.

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