Fennel & Orange Salad
with Pine Nuts

I am a lucky girl!

For one, I am blessed to have my parents live so close by.. they are precious and I love spending time with them. My parents are the retirees who have a full life with travel, church activities, family events and a full social calendar. So when they stopped by recently to visit us after our return home they came with hugs and a bag of goodies. It's so like my mom.. and my grandmother before her, to never leave a home without leaving something warm behind or to never pay a visit without a gesture of kindness in the form of baked goods, fruits and nuts or an herbal bouquet.

This time she came with some treats for the grandchildren and a huge bag of oranges for me. Yumm! My mom and dad have some friends here in our town who are citrus growers. They have quite a large orchard and are purveyors of some of the sweetest fruits I have ever tasted. These oranges were spectacular and better than any of the ones I have purchased in the market.

So here with my newly acquired bag of oranges and a fresh bulb of fennel in the refrigerator I was quick to serve a refreshing orange and fennel salad with pine nuts. If you notice in the recipe directions I encourage washing the greens of the fennel "very" well. Butterfly's LOVE love fennel plants and lay their eggs on the leaves. If you ever have the opportunity to grow fennel you will soon find out they will be amassed with caterpillars in no time. The eggs are a bit sticky and don't wash off easily so you need to check carefully! :)
Hope you enjoy this delicious salad.
Bon Appetito!

Fennel Orange Salad

1 Large Fennel bulb
2 Sweet Oranges
Fennel greens
¼ cup Pine Nuts

Clean and slice fennel. Wash fennel greens very well! Finely chop fennel greens.
Slice oranges into segments. Arrange orange segments and fennel slices nicely in a bowl.
Toss with pine nuts. Sprinkle the fennel greens on top. Drizzle dressing over the salad and serve.

Dressing Ingredients
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Teaspoon honey
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
3-4 Tablespoon Pinot Grigio wine
1/4 teaspoon salt
A couple twists of freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl mix olive oil and honey together till blended. Whisk in orange juice and wine till ingredients are emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle a bit over the fennel and orange salad keeping the remainder for individual serving at the table.

Amaretto Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

These little Biscotti cookies have been a boost to my moral! I have made biscotti many times before, but I happened to change the cocoa amount and added real Amaretto instead of Pure Vanilla extract and maybe just a bit of some Valentines Love Spice and voila, this has been a hit among the teachers at my daughters school whom I made these for. So I dedicate this recipe to them with sincere "Thanks" for their love and dedication to my daughter and the other children in the class. Mrs. Maria and her staff are top notch and irreplacable in our lives!

I think the reason these cookies were so loved is because the texture was not as dry and hard as a typical Biscotti cookie. They had a bit of a flavor resemblance to a brownie but still carried the unmistakable crunch you get with the beloved Biscotti. Still great for dipping in coffee! I also have to attribute some credit to the type of cocoa and chocolate I used . I made the chocolate decoration on top by melting and incorporating a little Amaretto liqueur into E. Guittard Chocolate wafers. These are such luxurious chocolates, so buttery and smooth in texture and taste. I paid a bit more than I usually would for chocolate pieces, but for Valentines day I also made Pecan Turtles for my husband and I wanted a high quality gourmet chocolate for his dolce treat and the price I paid was well worth it! And for the cocoa I used Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder.

2/3 cups Softened Butter
1 1/4 cups Sugar
4 Eggs
3 Tbsp. Amaretto
2 1/2 cups Flour
1 1/2 cups Cocoa Powder
4 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
2 cups Walnuts or Whole Almonds

Preheat Oven to 375˚.
Prepare 3 cookie sheets by coating them lightly with butter. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue beating.
When light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time continuing to beat on medium. Every once in a while
scrape down sides of the bowl. Add Amaretto and incorporate.

In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients except for the nuts. A little at a time add dry ingredients into your butter, egg and sugar mix. Just blend until well combined. Add nuts and mix in.

Dough will be sticky and hard to handle at this point. Have some flour on hand to dust your hands with while working the dough into logs. With hands dusted, divide dough into 6 equal portions. Shape dough into six 8x1, 1/2 inch loaves.
Place 3 logs on each cookie sheet 4 inches apart, flatten slightly. Bake 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool for around 45 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325˚. On cutting board cut each loaf diagonally into 1/2 inch slices; return slices to cookie sheet. Bake 5 minutes. Turn slices over and bake cookies an additional 5-8 minutes more or until gold, dry and crisp. Don't let them get brown. For me I think they taste overdone when they are let to stay to long. Cool on racks. Decorate with a drizzle of fine melted chocolate.

Hope you enjoy!
Buon Appetito,