Thursday, March 29, 2012

How Do You Cook with Fennel?

fennel bulb

Cashier: Picking up the two fennel bulbs I was buying and examining them. "Do you cook with fennel a lot?"

Me: "Oh, yeah. All the time."

Cashier: "I’ve always wondered what to do with it. It just looks so cool, you know?"

Me: "Oh, I can give you lots of idea about how to cook with fennel. You could put it in salads or saute --"

Cashier: Waving the hands as if she were trying to stop traffic, she interrupted,  "Oh, no, no! I don't want you to tell me. I won’t actually do it. I’ve just always wondered."

In case you're wondering about fennel bulb, it's actually an herb that has been enjoyed since antiquity. When eaten raw, you'll appreciate its crunchy, refreshing celery-like texture and sweet licorice flavor. When sauteed or roasted, you'll find it morphs into something more savory, with an earthy depth of flavor. It gets along well with many ingredients but has a special affinity for citrus fruits, figs, olives, nuts, and hard cheese like Pecorino Romano and Parmesan. And those feathery fronds? They're edible too. Toss them in your salad or munch on them as a digestive aid.

So, tell me, dear readers, 
how do you cook with fennel? 

Lemony Roasted Fennel and String Beans

Lemony Roasted Fennel and String Beans
Makes 4 servings
Printable recipe.

1 fennel bulb, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 pound string beans, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
The zest of 1/2 lemon (about 1/2 teaspoon)
The juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut of fennel stalks. Cut bulb in half. Then in quarters, then in eights, for a total of 8 wedges. Place fennel and string beans in a large baking dish.

2. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pour over vegetables and toss until coated. Cover tightly with tinfoil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the tinfoil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley and toss. Cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and a few brown spots appear.

3. Transfer vegetables to a platter or large bowl and drizzle with juices from the baking dish. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and remaining 1/2 tablespoon parsley.

You might also enjoy these fennel recipes: 

warm barley and fennel salad

Warm Barley and Fennel Salad recipe from Food Blogga (pictured above)

Apple, Fennel and Celery Salad recipe from Food Blogga

Shaved Fennel Salad recipe from 101 Cookbooks

Fennel, Pear, and Olive Salad recipe from The Perfect Pantry (pictured above)

Fresh Fig and Fennel Pizza recipe from Food Blogga

Roasted Zucchini and Fennel Soup recipe from Dianasaur Dishes

Pickled Fennel Agrodolce recipe from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook (above)

Cheesy Chile, Fennel, and Potato Gratin recipe from What We're Eating

Monday, March 26, 2012

Share Your Easter Family Traditions and You Could Win an Easter Ham

Some of you may not know this, but in addition to writing Food Blogga, I also create content for Pork, Knife & Spoon, the blog of The National Pork Board.

Right now, we're gearing up for Easter by giving away coupons for TWO EASTER HAMS!

Want to win an Easter ham for your family? Do like bunnies do, and hop on over to Pork, Knife & Spoon to find out how!

The deadline for entering is this Wednesday, March 28, 2012 (midnight PST), so hurry! And good luck!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

eBook Review: In Conversation with Exceptional Women by Monica Bhide

Wouldn’t you cherish the opportunity to sit at a dinner table with Ruth Reichl, Dorie Greenspan, Susan Orlean, and Amanda Hesser? You can (sort of) when you read Monica Bhide’s ebook, In Conversation with Exceptional Women: Seeds of Inspiration to Help You Bloom Where You Are Planted.

Bhide, also exceptional, -- she’s an engineer-turned-renown cookbook author, writer, and mom of two -- interviewed 55 accomplished, inspirational women and compiled their insights in this notable ebook.

After posting several interviews on her blog, A Life of Spice, Bhide thought an ebook was the natural next step. So she reached out to women, who to varying degrees, had an impact on her life, including Top Chef host, Padma Lakshmi, award-winning author, Deborah Madison, and food blogging pioneer, Elise Bauer. You'll learn about their work patterns, their muses, their failings, and their successes. Some interviews are humorous, others poignant, all inspirational.

You could read this book at one sitting, on a lazy Sunday, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Take it one story at a time, perhaps with your morning coffee or afternoon tea. Savor the honesty, drink the wisdom. And remember, you’re exceptional.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Garlicky Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Dip Recipe

Garlicky Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Dip

"Back again?" (no smile)

That's the response I got from the cashier when I returned to my local market for the third time in three days.

"Wow, you must really love peppers." (eye roll)

That's what she said when I gently placed my nine red bell peppers on the conveyor belt. That's after having bought six the previous day and three before that, all with the same cashier. Does she ever go home?

I took umbrage neither to her eye rolling nor to her indelicate handling of my pristine peppers. If she doesn't realize the mind-blazing deal of red bell peppers 3 for $1, then I can't help her. I also won't be sharing my garlicky roasted red pepper and almond dip with her. So, there.

Garlicky Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Dip

This recipe is inspired by my friend Simona from the authentically Italian blog, Briciole. If you don't know Simona, then I suggest you visit her. You'll feel like you just spent some time under the Tuscan sun.

Garlicky Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Dip
Makes just over 1 cup.
Printable recipe.

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 cup blanched almonds, lightly toasted
1 1/4 cups drained roasted red peppers
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
A couple of pinches of salt

1. In a small pan over medium-low heat, warm olive oil. Add red pepper flakes and sliced garlic, and saute until golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Keep an eye on it, as it can burn quickly! Remove from heat.

2. Grind almonds in a food processor. Add garlic-oil, roasted red peppers, vinegar and a pinch of salt. Process until a thick sauce forms. Taste, and salt as desired. Cover and refrigerate, but bring to room temperature before serving.

You might also enjoy these red bell pepper appetizer recipes: 
Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread recipe from Family Style Food
Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Feta and Mint recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen
Grilled Eggplant with Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade recipe from Food Blogga
Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Hummus Crostini recipe from The Perfect Pantry
Mini Grilled Pizzas with Shrimp and Roasted Red Pepper Pesto recipe from Cookin Canuck