Here’s a vinaigrette to make all year long: lime juice and maple syrup turn out to be a perfect match.
Toasted hazelnuts add a floral crunch and unite the bitter lettuce and sweet, citrusy vinaigrette. Since escarole is a sturdy lettuce, it’ll maintain its integrity through the duration of your picnic. Serves 4 to 6
1/2 cup blanched hazelnuts
1/4 cup (60ml) plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 fennel bulb
2 heads of escarole, cored, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
Heat your oven to 350°F/180°C and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Pour the hazelnuts on the baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and season heavily with salt and pepper. Toss to coat then bake them, stirring once about halfway through, until evenly toasted, about 8 minutes. Cool, then roughly chop.
Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil with the maple syrup and lime juice in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Using a mandoline (you can get a cheap one at any Asian grocery store or Amazon and it’s an extremely useful tool so just buy it, please), shave the fennel bulb lengthwise, stopping short of the last nub (don’t slice off your fingers). Pile the fennel over the dressing then pile the escarole on top of the fennel. Cover the whole lot with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat it or take it to the park, no more than 2 hours. Chop the hazelnuts and pack them separately. When you’re ready to serve, scatter the hazelnuts over the salad and toss. The nuts, fennel, and escarole are all pretty hearty, so you won’t have to worry about anything getting unappetizingly soggy.