Carmelized Fennel with Goat Cheese

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The last week of the CSA and fennel was in my box. I don’t think most westerners know what to do with fennel, as it’s not the most popular vegetable. It’s origin is unclear, however believed to come from the Mediterranean vicinity. Today it is grown widely in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks. Fennel is an interesting vegetable, as it looks somewhat like celery stalks, and yet it has a pronounced licorice flavor. The bulb, foliage, and seeds of the fennel plant are all used in this dish from Yotam Ottollenghi’s, Plenty.

To caramelize the fennel, a dash of sugar and vegan butter are needed which brings out the sweetness and licorice aroma. If you love the Italian Golia licorice candy, then you’ll definitely love this. Although this is a vegetable dish with spots of goat cheese that just makes this dish glide down your throat. This recipe is absolutely delicious, and very versatile. You could serve these as a vegetable side, or anywhere you’d eat caramelized onions – in salads or rice dishes…

Serves 2

Ingredients

2-4 small fennel bulbs
2 Tbsp unsalted vegan butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar, depending on your sweet tooth
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 garlic cloves, crushed or diced
grated zest of one lemon
coarse sea salt and black pepper
fresh dill, for serving
goat cheese

  1. Start by preparing the fennel bulbs. First, cut off the leafy fronds, keeping a bit aside for the garnish. Next, slice off the end of the root and remove the tough outer layers, making sure the base still holds everything together. Cut each bulb lengthwise into 1/2 in. thick slices.
  2. Melt butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. When the butter starts to foam, add a layer of sliced fennel. Do not overcrowd the pan and don’t turn the fennel over or stir it around in the pan until one side has become light golden, which will take a few minutes. Using tongs, turn the slices over and cook for another few minutes. Remove from the pan, add a bit more olive oil and butter if needed and repeat the process with the remaining raw fennel.
  3. Once all the fennel is done and removed from the pan, reduce the heat, then add the sugar, fennel seeds, and plenty of salt and pepper to the pan. Fry for 30 seconds, adding a little more oil or butter if needed, until the sugar is dissolved, then return all the fennel to the pan and caramelize them gently. Once the fennel is caramelized, coated with sauce and tender (about 5 minutes), turn off the heat and add the garlic. Stir again to incorporate it.
  4. To serve, toss the fennel in a bowl with the dill and lemon zest. Taste and adjust seasoning. Arrange on a serving plate, or serve on toast as an appetizer (you may want to cut them into slightly smaller pieces). Dot with spoonfuls of goat’s cheese and garnish with fennel fronds.

Kohlrabi Salad in Fennel Seed dressing

What is that weird looking celery green vegetable that is the size of an apple- even crispy like an apple, but has stems growing from it? The Kohlrabi. The most coveted part of kohlrabi is the bulb-shaped stem, which is usually peeled, then sliced or cubed before being eaten raw or cooked. It is one of the most widely eaten vegetable in Kashmir, yet not known well in the West at all. In fact, in Asia it’s eaten raw as a finger food, much in the same way that we eat baby carrots as an Hor D’Ouvres. I think the reason why it’s not as well known here in the West is because it’s an acquired taste. Kohlrabi has the taste of a cross between an asparagus and a broccoli stem. Sounds appetizing…. hmmm.

Well, I was with you on that up until recently.
Growing up in my Afghani home, kohlrabi was typically served peeled and cut up as Hor D’ourves and served as an aperitif before the main meal. As a child, I could not appreciate this foreign root vegetable that I could not pronounce.  Belonging to the CSA where there is a weekly surprise of vegetables, sometimes unfavorable, I received kohlrabi. I loved the challenge of creating a dish with a vegetable that I had an aversion to as a child. When I stumbled upon this recipe from Ivy Manning’s Farm to Table Cookbook, I knew that this salad was going to change my view of this turnip. Kohlrabi, carrots and fennel are fused into a subtle salad that is refreshing and clean. The fennel seed and the sesame oil combine to mysterious effect, as you crunch your way through the salad. There’s something about the dressing and the sweet crunchy vegetable batons that combine with the floral heat, creating a fanciful tingle on the tongue.
Serves 4
Ingredients

2 medium red or green kohlrabi bulbs

1 large carrot peeled

1 teaspoon fennel seed or 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 small garlic clove, pressed
1 California green chili (long green pepper) minced
Directions

  1.   Peel the tough outer skin and cut the stems from the kohlrabi. Julienne the kohlrabi with a mandolin or in a food processor fitted with a julienned blade (you will have about 4 cups), and then julienne the carrot.
  2.   If using whole fennel seed, toast the fennel seeds in a small dry sauté pan over medium heat until they begin to brown slightly and smell toasty. Transfer them to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, and grind them into a coarse powder.
  3.  In a small bowl, whisk the ground fennel seed, vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, salt, pepper, garlic and chili. Pour over the vegetables and toss to coat.