archives : roasted fennel april '10

You can always tell a crisp fresh fennel bulb by the splays of fine bright green feathery leaves that crown it. And if you happen to run into any wild fennel (which consists of only the feathery leaves) growing in the hills on the outskirts of urbania, gather up the precious stuff, rush home and stir up some wild fennel cakes...
So now if you're in the mood for some fennel...bulbs, give this dish a try.


3 large or 6 small fresh fennel bulbs
Couple generous squeezes fresh lemon juice
4 tBsp light honey, acacia if available (heat to melt if crystallized)
1 handful hazelnuts or filberts
1 sprig fresh thyme, the leaves removed
1 round fresh goat’s milk cheese (a Selles sur Cher is perfect)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground pepper

— Remove the goat cheese from the refrigerator. It should be room temperature.
— Preheat the oven to 160 ˚C (325 ˚F).
— Slice all but 1-inch of the feather-like tops from the fennel bulbs. Finely chop any fresh, fine leaves, place them in a small bowl or ramekin and just cover with extra virgin olive oil. Set in a warm place (near a stove pilot) to infuse for a couple of hours. Just before using season with a pinch of unrefined sea salt. (You can keep the rest of the infused oil in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but no longer, and find other creative uses for it.)
— Roast the almonds for 10 - 15 minutes, until their skins start to crack and the heavenly scent of roasted nuts begins to seep into the air. Wrap in a kitchen towel and let sit for a few minutes before vigorously rubbing them to free their skins. When they’re cool, I normally take and rub them between my hands over the sink or the towel to remove any remaining skin that is willing. Don’t fuss over the recalcitrant skins that refuse to surrender, just leave them be.
— Just slightly trim the bottom of the fennel bulbs so that all the petals remain intact. Remove the outer petals if tough, otherwise peel them with a vegetable peeler.
— Slice the bulbs lengthwise into good 1/4-inch slices (3-4 slices per person). If they are young, small bulbs, you can simply quarter them. Place in a large baking dish without them overlapping and lightly brush with extra-virgin olive oil.
— Turn on the broiler and, when hot, place the dish at a distance of about 5 inches from the coils or gas and roast until golden brown (about 5 minutes on each side). The fennel should be al dente.
— Remove from the oven and immediately season each slice with a pinch of unrefined sea salt. Drizzle with the lemon juice and honey while still in the baking dish. Let the sauce bubble for a few breaths, then transfer the fennel to a plate and pour the marinade on top. Set aside to marinate for 30 min, turning once or twice.
— To serve, arrange the fennel on 4 individual plates along with a nice wedge of fresh goat cheese. Garnish with a few chopped hazelnuts and a pinch of thyme leaves. Drizzle with the lemon-honey marinade. Top the wedge of goat's milk cheese with a teaspoon of the fennel-infused olive oil and give the whole dish a turn of the pepper grinder. Bon appetit!

Wine note : Try with a dry, slightly floral white wine, such as a Bianco Alcamo from Sicily from the Catarratto grape varietal; a Fiano di Avellino from Camapania and made with the Fiano grape; or a Ciro Bianco, from Calabria and the grape varietal Greco. Living in France, I’d go for a La Dilettante from Pierre et Catherine Breton in Bourgeuil, or a Chateau Pierre-Bise “non-sulfite” Le Haut de la Gard : Anjou (2007), both biodynamically-grown and naturally-vinified white wines. Also a La Croix Boissée (2005) from Bernard Baudry. All 3 of these wines from the Loire Valley are made with 100% Chenin Blanc grapes.

Now for my smattering of articles and such. I've garnered a nice handful over the last three months:
- Inner-City Eco-Warriors in London
- The Femivore’s Dilemma
Radical Homemakers
- United States of Food - Edible Geography
- Your Taco Deconstructed
The Food Environment Atlas - a bit of a hoot
- BBC discovery: Feeding the world:
audio episode 1
audio episode 2
audio episode 3
- UK water use 'worsening global crisis'
- Drinking one cup of coffee costs 140 litres of water
- UNESCO Institute for Water Education monthly magazine
- Don't let big food control what you eat: Industrial food companies like Monsanto, Kraft, Conagra and General Mills control the vast majority of America's food supply. Food safety violations, environmental destruction, and an obesity epidemic are running out of control...
- Where Paris Chefs, Not Prices, Rise: NYTimes

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