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I Was Born to Cook's Citrus-Fennel Salad + Cardoon Pie {SRC Reveal}

It's the first Monday of the month which means one thing: Secret Recipe Club reveal for Group A. This month I was assigned to I Was Born to Cook, a blog written by Melissa, a young-at-heart 40-something, first generation Italian/Greek girl who was born and raised in Northern NJ, right outside of NYC. She writes that cooking has always been a passion of hers. I can relate. And I hope she can also understand that while I was passionately inspired by these two recipes - Citrus Fennel Salad and Sicilian Artichoke Pie - I improvised, putting my own spin on her creations, based on what I had in my fridge.

Citrus Fennel Salad

I picked my first recipe almost immediately: Citrus Fennel Salad is a salad she serves during her Feast of the Fishes on Christmas Eve. She cooks seven fish dishes. When I lived in Italy - and ever since - if we do the Feast of the Fishes for Christmas Eve, we prepare twelve dishes. I remember it was one dish per apostle. I have heard that different regions in Italy do different numbers of dishes. I had heard nine before. I wonder what the significance of seven is...

Here's my version of her citrus fennel salad.

butter lettuce
1 large pink grapefruit
1 fennel bulb
black olives, left whole (I took the picture before adding the olives! Sorry!)
extra virgin olive oil
tangerine balsamic vinegar
a few squeezes of fresh orange juice
a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
freshly ground sea salt
4-6 caviar limes

Tear the washed and dried butter lettuce into bite-sized pieces and lay them on bottom of the serving platter or plate.  Peel the grapefruit, section it, and scatter pieces over the salad. Cut fronds off fennel bulb and cut bulb into thin pieces.  Lay on top of the lettuce and grapefruit.  

Squeeze orange and lemon juice on top, then add a few splashes each of oil and vinegar.  Top with freshly ground pepper and freshly ground sea salt.  This can be served cold or at room temp (we serve at room temp). Right before serving, dot the salad with the olives squeeze the caviar lime beads over the top.

Torta di Cardi

Inspired by Melissa's Sicilian Artichoke Pie (Tortino di Carciofini), I created a phyllo-crusted creation featuring artichoke's cousin cardoons.

Clean and chop the cardoons into bite-sized pieces and boil them until soft. Cool slightly and stir them into beaten eggs seasoned with sea salt and cinnamon.

Layer your baking dish with 6 layers of phyllo dough, brushing each sheet with melted butter.

Line the bottom of the crust with a layer of lowfat cottage cheese. Pour the cardoon mixture in and sprinkle with feta cheese. Top with 4 more layers of phyllo, brushing each layer with butter. Roll the edges in to form a crust lip.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until the phyllo is crisp and golden brown. Serve with a green salad dressed in an oregano dressing.

Melissa, thank you for the inspiration. Or should I say 'grazie mille'? Or maybe 'σας ευχαριστώ'?! What great, fresh flavors!


  1. What great traditions with such delicious looking food to go along with them.

  2. I'd be happy to sit down to a meal like this any day. Beautiful salad and pie!

  3. I've actually never heard of cardoons! However I LOVE fennel in salads. Delicious!

    1. I had only ever seen them in markets when I lived in Rome. But there is enough of an Italian community here, central coast of California, that they are starting to appear in farmers' markets and even at the grocery store. They look like GIANT, pale and fuzzy celery.

    2. About cardoons!

  4. I have never heard of cardoons either; you really do learn something new every day! My city has a large Italian population; I'll have to look for them.

    1. About cardoons!

  5. I'm not much of a lettuce person, but the fennel salad sounds delicious!

  6. That salad sounds really good. And I had never heard of cardoons, either.

    1. About cardoons!

  7. that salad sounds awesome! so creative! please check out my pumpkin graham muffins from this month's reveal if you have a chance :)

  8. I love that salad - it looks really yummy! :)


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