These days, I find myself rediscovering good old foods from the good old days… when we used to eat what our forefathers did. And nobody made any fuss about food. We ate everything that was being locally produced, we were healthier and happier. Now we have hundreds of types of food diets and probably that many types of food allergies as well(!). We prefer to eat “super-foods” from the other side of the globe instead of “super-foods” that grow literally on our doorstep.
After banning staples like butter, eggs and pork fat from our diet, they now say that they are “good for us” again – can you believe it?? My mum certainly doesn’t, nor does my grandma. No matter how hard I try to persuade them that eating 2 eggs per week won’t make their cholesterol levels skyrocket and that butter is healthier than margarine – they just won’t believe it. They had been persuaded by their doctors and through media that these natural foods are unhealthy. And now it’s supposed to be the opposite… no wonder people got confused. Myself including! I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and reading about it. Here’s what I’ve come to believe: one should eat everything in moderation, and more specifically everything that grows as close to one’s home as possible. As simple as that.
Pork fat has been a staple in our diet for generations. I almost forgot how an egg fried in pork fat with finely chopped pork rind smelled or tasted like… until some days ago when I treated myself with it. It instantly brought back the memories from my childhood. In traditional Slovenian cuisine, there are a number of tasty recipes using pork fat and rind that I intend to rediscover and hopefully share with you here. But first of all, let me tell you about fennel and red beet salad with pork rind fried polenta triangles. What a long name for such a simple dish, right?
For this delicious plate that looks and tastes splendid enough to include it in your Christmas menu, you will need to prepare the salad a bit in advance. Shave or finely slice the fennel and coarsely grate the red beet. Place in a salad bowl, season with salt, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and white balsamic vinegar. Let the salad soften for a couple of hours.
You will also need some cooked and cooled polenta. You can cook it with an addition of turmeric powder (like I did) which enhances the yellow color of polenta. Once cooked, spread polenta onto a plate and let cool. Polenta for this salad can be prepared a day ahead, covered with cling film and refrigerated. In a frying pan, melt a bit of pork fat along with some finely chopped rind and fry the polenta, sliced into triangles, for 3-4 minutes on each side (medium-high heat). Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel (so that it absorbs some fat).
To assemble the dish, spoon the salad onto serving plate(s) and decorate with polenta triangles. Don’t forget to sprinkle with the remaining pork rind. You can serve this salad plate as an appetizer or as a main dish. Enjoy!