Roasted Grape, Blackberry, and Feta Salad with Candied Fennel Seeds

Roasted Grape, Blackberry, and Feta Salad with Candied Fennel Seeds

Renée Robinson

Now Here’s a Salad That’s Anything But Boring.

This is a doozy of a salad. Because grilled pork chops were on the menu, I was free to spend my time having fun putting together this salad. The day before had been a Costco day, so I had plenty from which to choose. After choosing Boston lettuce, blackberries, and feta, I went for some deeper flavor by roasting a bunch of red grapes. I didn’t add anything to the grapes, except a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. I don’t bother turning on the big oven for this. My countertop oven does the job nicely and doesn’t heat up my whole kitchen.

Roasting Grapes for Salad

Before I get to the rest of this, it seems that now would be a good time to mention the merits of freezing citrus juices and zests. When I was thinking about what kind of dressing I wanted, I was able to choose orange juice and zest because I keep both in my freezer. I have a single large ziplock bag full of smaller ones filled with different citrus zests and juices. I never use the juice of any citrus fruit without first removing the zest and plunking it into the freezer. Or if I buy a bag of juice oranges, I zest them first, then juice them, and again, freeze both. Same goes for lemons, limes, and grapefruit. I can’t stress how often I turn to citrus juices and zests when I cook. It’s rare when my baked goods don’t contain one or the other. And I use them constantly in all my other cooking. They provide that much needed spark of brightness necessary for bringing other flavors to life.

In this case, I cooked down some orange juice with honey until it was concentrated and intensely flavored. A little Dijon mustard, calamansi vinegar, orange zest, salt, pepper, and olive oil rounded it out nicely. But after letting the roasted grapes cool and rest, I decided to add their accumulated juices to the dressing and now we were talking.

As I was toasting the pine nuts, my son suggested adding some candied fennel seeds to the salad and he got right on it. We’ve been doing this for awhile now with different ingredients. It’s so easy and the outcome is fantastic. 2 tablespoons sugar and water are cooked until thick and syrupy, 2 tablespoons fennel seeds are added and while quickly stirring, the sugar crystalizes and coats the seeds. All of this only takes about 5 to 10 minutes, at the most, and we have some left over for salads later in the week.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I had the time to concentrate on this salad because we were grilling pork chops which requires none of my attention, as I’m not the person who does the grilling in my home. A simply prepared protein with a great salad is a standard meal for us. But it is never boring. The possibilities are indeed endless. After I took this photo and we were sitting down to eat, I realized I had forgotten to use the scallions I had sliced for the salad. I quickly scattered them over the top and think they added a lot to the overall flavor balance, so I’ve included them in the recipe.

Roasted Grape, Blackberry, and Feta Salad with Candied Fennel Seeds

Recipe by Renée Robinson
Servings

4

servings

A Salad of Lettuce, Roasted Grapes, Blackberries, and Feta with an Orange Dressing.

Cook Mode

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Ingredients

  • Roasted Grapes Ingredients
  • 8 ounces 8 red grapes on the stem

  • 1/2 tablespoon 1/2 olive oil

  • Kosher salt and black pepper

  • Candied Fennel Seeds Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons 2 water

  • 2 tablespoons 2 granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons 2 fennel seeds

  • Dressing Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup 1/4 fresh orange juice

  • 1 teaspoon 1 honey

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 Dijon mustard

  • 1 tablespoon 1 calamansi vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons 2 fresh orange zest, finely grated

  • A pinch of A kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 black pepper, freshly ground

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 extra virgin olive oil

  • Accumulated juices from the roasted grapes

  • Salad Ingredients
  • 1 head 1 Boston lettuce

  • 1 6 ounce carton 1 fresh blackberries

  • 1 1 cara cara orange, peeled and sliced

  • 4 ounces 4 feta cheese, crumbled

  • 2 2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

  • 2 tablespoons 2 pine nuts, toasted

  • 1 teaspoon 1 nigella seeds

  • Kosher salt

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the grapes on a small baking tray. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until most of the grapes have split and are beginning to brown. Set aside, adding all the cooled accumulated juices to the salad dressing.
  • In a small saucepan, stir together water and sugar and cook over high heat until it is thick and syrupy and a wooden spoon dragged across the bottom leaves a clear path. Add the fennel seeds and reduce the heat to medium. Cook stirring constantly until the seeds are coated with sugar crystals and the the mixture is dry. Immediately remove from the heat, breaking up the clusters of seeds. Set aside.
  • Cook the orange juice and honey in a small saucepan until reduced to 1 tablespoon. Remove from the heat, place in a small bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Whisk in the remaining ingredients.
  • Line a platter with the lettuce leaves. Layer on the roasted grapes, blackberries, orange slices, feta, and scallions. Sprinkle with a little salt, the pine nuts, nigella seeds, and candied fennel seeds. Serve the dressing on the side. Enjoy!

4 Responses

  1. I have everything, even the Nigella
    Seeds, but not the calamansi vinegar. Is there a suitable substitute?

    1. Hi, Dawn. You could substitute cider vinegar and add a touch of honey. You should be fine. It won’t taste the same, but it should still be delicious. Please let me know how you like it!

      1. Thanks! I ended up using apple cider vinegar. It was delish.. as I would expect from your recipes ❤️

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