For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, the next few sentences may seem redundant as I am sure I've said these words before...perhaps in this exact order... The book "Plenty" by Yotam Ottolenghi is awesome! It's a vegetarian cookbook for the sake of vegetables, not to shun meat or support diet fads or whatever. The author is not vegetarian himself, but he gives the veggies highlighted in his book the kind of care that most chefs reserve for meats and well, meats... The recipe below is a recent favorite of mine; I love fennel in general (that almost rhymes!), and we have some great local goat cheese producers in the area, so this is a perfect way to bring the two together.
Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese
(adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s "Plenty")
yield: 4 servings
4 fennel bulbs
2 T unsalted butter, divided (preferably Organic Valley Pasture Butter, kind of because it's organic, but mostly because it's the butter version of heaven)
3 T olive oil, divided
2 T granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
sea salt to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T fresh dill, minced
1/2 cup fresh, local, goat cheese, broken into chunks or spooned into a pretty shape
zest of 1 lemon
Remove the branch and root ends from each fennel bulb, keeping a few lacy fronds to garnish with. Cut the bulb into 1/2-inch thick slices.
Melt 1 T butter with 1 1/2 T oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the sliced fennel in a single layer (don’t crowd the pan or the vegetables won't caramelize - this will take a couple of batches).
Cook without moving until just brown, then turn and brown the other side. Remove and reserve on a plate.
Repeat with the remaining butter, oil, and fennel slices. Add the sugar, fennel seeds, and a pinch each of salt to the pan. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly, then add the fennel back to the pan and cook undisturbed for another 1-2 minutes to caramelize.
Return to the plate to cool. Gently mix the cooled fennel, garlic, and dill together.
Spoon onto a decorative plate and top with the goat cheese, lemon zest, fennel fronds, and an extra pour of your favorite organic, extra virgin, unfiltered olive oil.
Jasmine Biernacki is the chef/owner of Boutique Artisan Catering in Gig Harbor. For more information, please visit http://www.chef-jasmine.com/