Sautéed Fennel, Apple and Kale Salad

There's nothing quite like working in New York City.

It's one of those fabulous places where all of your senses are attacked at once, 24/7. There is so much to see, touch, taste, hear and smell that it can be overwhelming.

On any given day, there are a lot of things I'd rather not see, hear, taste, touch or smell. (Just step on a subway train and you'll see what I mean.) But, there are also the wonderful smells of roasting garlic and browning meat wafting out onto the street as restaurants prep for the lunch crowd. Street carts offer up little hand warming pouches of fire-roasted almonds, chestnuts, peanuts, or pecans. The tantalizing aroma of spices and sugary, toasted nuts stops even the most hurried of us in our tracks. And then, there are the coffee shops and bakeries with their windows filled to the top with gorgeous pastries, cakes and other confections that seem to call out to you as if you were Alice at the bottom of the rabbit hole: "Eat me!" And I do. And they are delicious.

From my office, I can see the food trucks and bikes and buses and delivery vans whiz by -- everyone in motion, always in a rush. Crowds of tourists stop to point up at buildings, nearly falling backwards into each other as they try to get a glimpse of the tallest spire. Walking down the sidewalk, I hear the constant sounds of commerce and traffic and travelers -- plates clinking, phones ringing, cameras snapping, headphones blaring, taxis honking. Strangers touch, as we push by and up against and past and through. And we do this every single day. Together, yet on our own path. It's an amazing place. And, an amazing race.

Yet, thankfully, at the end of the day, I get to leave the wonderful chaos of the city and head home to a quieter, more serene atmosphere. I like the balance of the crazy with the calm, but with that comes a tedious commute -- two hours each day spent getting from here to there instead of doing something, anything else.

Which means getting home and having dinner before 7:30 p.m. is a challenge. And when I'm feeling rushed and not overly hungry, but still want something to nosh on, it gets downright tricky. (What to make?)

Last night, however, I threw together a lovely dish with fennel, apples and kale that took less than 10 minutes. I heated a wee bit of butter (olive oil is fine, too) over medium-high heat, then added a bit of minced shallots. When they were soft and fragrant, in went some sliced fennel. I sautéed the fennel until it started to brown, then in went slices of apple, a splash of maple syrup, a pinch of red pepper flakes and salt/pepper to taste. When the apples and the fennel were tender, I added a couple handfuls of baby kale and stirred to combine. Once the kale had wilted, I removed the pan from heat and sprinkled the dish with some chopped fennel fronds, more salt/pepper, and that was it.
A big bowl of this tasty, warm salad was just what I needed. (For a more substantial dinner, you could also add a bit of cream and chopped, cooked bacon with the apples and then toss the finished dish with some pasta.) Also, the smell of shallots being sautéed has to be one of the best aromas ever. Mmmm. So good. Now if only I could bottle it up and take it with me for those less than pleasant moments on the E train...