Archive for the ‘Fennel’ Category


Fabulous Fennel


In honor of the books we’ve been reading recently for my online book club, “The Kitchen Reader,” I’d like to share a recipe for caramelized fennel. But first my apologies for not posting much recently – the crepe cart has been keeping me busy! However I’m now on a break in France where it’s hot but not humid, the air is filled with the sound of cicadas and the markets are full of fennel. It is so good to be back at the kitchen table in Cazo.

For the past two months “The Kitchen Reader” group has focused on books that explore food sustainability and environmentally responsible eating. June’s pick was “Food Matters” by Mark Bittman. In hindsight, I’m surprised by how much this book has effected me   — though when reading it last month I thought he (Bittman) was preaching to the choir (me). His “vegan til six” idea struck me as a little kitschy, somehow. But his suggestions have stuck. Since finishing it, I have cut my consumption of all animal products dramatically. It’s influenced the way I shop and cook for my family. And Pollan’s ideas in “In Defense of Food” are similar. More vegetables. Less meat. Period. These are important books to read to get you thinking and inspired about not only your own health but that of the planet.

So here is a recipe from chef Yottam Ottolenghi – minus the goat curd as this needs no help from the animal kingdom to make it delicious. It is truly one of the best dishes I’ve made at home. It’s simple, low-impact and high in flavor. Try it served hot and nibbled  right out of the skillet, warm and tossed with pasta, as a side, or cold the next day mixed in with a lunchtime salad. Even if you think you don’t like fennel, give this a whirl and see if you might be converted. Or am I already preaching to the choir?

Sunflowers, as yellow as the zest of a lemon


Caramelized Fennel with Lemon Zest and Garlic

Try this dish. It will become a staple in your culinary repertoire. A nod to London’s chef Ottolenghi and his new, outrageously inspired cookbook “Plenty”  for the inspiration for this recipe- though as I mentioned, I’ve modified it somewhat to keep it purely vegan. I’m also taking a Jamie Oliver approach to recipe writing using terms like a “glug of olive oil” and a “knob of butter” to let you decide on your own how much to add. This is so good you might want to have company around when you make it.

Serves 4


4 small to medium fennel bulbs (the smaller they are, the more delicate)

a few knobs of butter

a few glugs of olive oil

2 Tbsp caster sugar (crystalized brown sugar works best here)

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 garlic clove, crushed (don’t be tempted to add more – one is enough)

grated zest of one half lemon

coarse sea salt and black pepper

Prepare the fennel bulbs by removing the leafy fronds. Next slice off part of the root and remove tough outer layers but make sure the root base still holds everything together. Now cut the bulbs lengthwise in 1/4″ thick slices.

Melt a knob of butter and a glug of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. When the butter starts to foam, add a layer of fennel slices. Be sure not to crowd the pan and don’t stir or turn the fennel over until the bottom side starts to turn light brown (about 90 seconds). Using tongs, turn the slices over and cook for another minute or two. Remove the cooked fennel from the pan, add a bit more olive oil and butter and repeat the process with the remaining raw fennel.

Once all the fennel is done and removed from the pan, add the sugar, fennel seeds, salt and pepper to the pan and fry for 30 seconds (the sugar will melt quickly, making a gorgeous, caramely sauce). Now return all the fennel to the pan and caramelize,  stirring  gently for 1-2 more minutes. Once the fennel is coated with the sauce and fennel seeds turn off the heat and add the garlic. Stir again to incorporate it. Remove fennel to a platter and garnish with lemon zest, and more salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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This month's book pick


Today, something new for Fork on the Road: a book review! At the beginning of April I became part of  a food bloggers’ book review, The Kitchen Reader. Each month this group reads and writes about a book of interest to the food community. The most recent selection is On the Line: The Stations, the Heat, the Cooks, the Costs, the Chaos, and the Triumphs. So here goes, let’s see what’s “on the line” at Le Bernadin, a famous three star  restaurant in New York City known for its fish dishes  (and don’t worry, there’s a simple, dinner-with-friends-worthy recipe  for swordfish – or halibut – tucked in at the end of the review).

Taking a look at Le Bernardin’s menu, I realized that dining there would be torture. I couldn’t bear the thought of actually having to decide what to order at this famed seafood restaurant. Maybe the Pan Roasted Red Snapper with Crispy Papadam and Preserved Tomato Chutney; Thai Basil infused Kaffir Lime Broth? No, wait, make that the Baked Langoustine and Striped Bass; Confit Tomato Agnolotti; Bouillabaisse Consomme and Curry Emulsion. But then there’s also the Florida Grouper. Maybe I could just order one of everything? The flavor combinations created by the chefs at Le Bernadin are breathtaking and inspirational.

Why spend time with this particular book, when there are plenty of other fish in the cookbook sea? While I wouldn’t use it for its complex and time-consuming recipes, I appreciated the layout and organization. It’s a combination restaurant memoir and step-by-step guide to the many pieces that make up this cooking machine.  On the Line first tells the reader a bit about the history of this famous institution whose doors opened in the 1980’s, started by a  brother-sister team from a seaside community in Brittany, France. It then dives into the inner workings of this complex business, the financials, the staffing, and even a minute-by-minute look at what it’s like to work “on the line” grilling a piece of fish and plating it. There is gorgeous food photography and lovely writing by Christine Mulhke, too.

If you’re thinking of opening a restaurant, read this book. Even if you’re not aiming for three stars in Michelin Guide, it’s a reminder of the realities of the business; managing a million details and dollars, the picky customers, the outrageous requests, constant quality control – as Chef Eric Rippert reminds the reader:  “you’re only as good as your last meal” – and keeping your concept – not just your food – fresh.

Foil-baked Swordfish (or Halibut) with Fennel, Olives and Orange










Almost ready to swim to the oven


Chef Eric Ripert  of Le Bernadin believes that an excellent seafood dish needs acidity, spice and texture. This dish fits those criteria. Though the following recipe isn’t from Le Bernadin’s menu, it is reminsent of the flavors I read about – and salivated over – in On the Line. My friend Anna shared it with me several years ago and I’ve made it many times since. Swordfish is very pricy and hovers on an off the endangered list. So if you want to try this flavor combination but are reluctant to  cast out all the cash in your wallet, try substituting halibut instead. This is adapted from a “Gourmet” cookbook – though I’m not sure which one. It works just as perfectly if you multiply it by four (to serve eight) and it’s scrumptious served with rice and fresh spinach. One more thing: this dish can be prepared ahead through Step 3, refrigerated and baked later, making it perfect for entertaining or delivering to friends.

Serves 2

1 fennel bulb (about 1/4 pound), trimmed and cut into thin strips, reserving 2 tablespoons of the fennel sprigs, chopped, if desired

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 oil cured Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced thin

1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

2 tablespoons dry white wine 

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

two 6 ounce swordfish (or halibut steaks) – about 3/4 inch thick, seasoned with salt and pepper

Foil for cooking

1)Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2)In a heavy skillet, cook the fennel strips in the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 8 minutes until they are crisp-tender. Add the olives, the zest, the wine, the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. or until the liquid is reduced slightly.

3) Fold 2 pieces of 20 x 12 inch foil in half, unfold each piece and arrange a swordfish steak in the center of each piece. Top the swordfish with the fennel mixture and sprinkle with the reserved fennel fronds. Fold the foil over the fish and enclose them making little sealed foil packets.

4) Place the packets on a baking sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes in oven. Transfer the packets to plates and slit them open at the table. Or, for a more formal presentation, open the packets carefully and transfer the fish and fennel mixture to plates, pouring the juices over the top.

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