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Ticket to a Tailgate

September 24, 1997|BETTY ROSBOTTOM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Rosbottom is the author of "American Favorites" (Chapters Publishing, 1996)

Although summer is the season when most of us plan picnics, early fall is a beautiful time to pack a special meal to eat outdoors or to take to a tailgate party before a football game.

This potato and fennel salad does not have a mayonnaise dressing and can be packed and taken to distant picnic sites with no worries. Accompany it with grilled or roasted chicken (which, to save time and effort, you could buy already prepared at the supermarket) or pita pockets filled with slices of cooked flank steak and blue cheese. Sliced tomatoes sprinkled with chopped basil round out the main course. For dessert, serve fall pears and apples with brownies.

POTATO AND FENNEL SALAD WITH TARRAGON AND WALNUTS

2 pounds baking potatoes

Salt

1 fennel bulb

2 1/2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed

1 cup thinly sliced red onions

1 tablespoon chopped tarragon

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives

6 to 7 Boston or red leaf lettuce leaves, cleaned and dried

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large, heavy saucepan. Peel potatoes and cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 3/4-inch wedges, then cut each wedge in half widthwise. Add potatoes to boiling water with 1 tablespoon salt and boil just until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. (Note: Do not overcook or potatoes will become mushy.) Remove potatoes from water with slotted spoon and set aside. Let water continue to boil.

Trim feathery stalks from fennel bulb. Halve bulb, cut out and discard triangular core and cut fennel into 1/2-inch lengthwise slices. Add fennel to boiling water used for potatoes and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. (Water will be cloudy, but that's OK.) Drain and set aside.

Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and fennel seeds in large bowl. Add potatoes, fennel and onions and mix. Add tarragon, parsley and chives and mix well. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. (Note: Salad may be made 2 to 3 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.)

To serve, place lettuce leaves on serving platter and mound salad on leaves. Sprinkle walnuts over salad.

4 servings. Each serving:

451 calories; 175 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 27 grams fat; 47 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 2.46 grams fiber.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Cook's Tip

To toast walnuts, place on rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until nuts are lightly browned and crisp, about 8 minutes, stirring once or twice. Watch carefully. Remove to work surface and cool.

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