April 24, 2008

The Tale of Two Fennels

(another cleaning house post)

For ages now, I've been contemplating making a risky purchase in the produce department - the ever feared Fennel. For years, I've shyed away from this odd looking vegetable because of the "rumor" that it tastes like eating black licorice. And there is nothing I detest more than black licorice or anything anise flavored.

Everyone kept assuring me it didn't actually taste like Anise, more of like eating fresh basil leaves. But I just never found a recipe to do anything with fennel that I thought we'd both eat. I kept hearing, put it in stews, cook it with roasts, sautee it - but I was worried that those things may not mask the flavor incase I didn't like it.

Finally, Kate at work prompted me to try fennel - she and her boyfriend eat it all the time and it's a great staple for the kitchen. She brought in two recipes and I figured OK this sounds good I could make and eat this.

My first attempt to make this failed. Every week I stand in the produce department at our local market and stare at the fennel saying to Adam - is this the week? And we always decided No and pass on to the deli and fish monger. So this time, when we decided this IS the week for the fennel - guess what - no fennel - not one in the whole store.

Now, I could have taken that as a sign to just run away from the feared veggie - but I didn't. I tried the following week and it was there - I took that as a sign that I needed to make this recipe.
So Monday night (after the mutual decision to order Chinese food Sunday night) I made the recipe. As I was cutting the fennel I was a little freaked out that it smelled so much like Anise. But as it cooked down and we tasted it, we were really pleased with the flavor. The recipe was easy to make, tasty, and certainly a great way to introduce the feared fennel into a household kitchen. We served with some lightly sauteed shrimp and fresh peas from the farmers market (that's a whole other story!!).

Below is the recipe as is from Mario Batali. I, however freaked when I saw the amount of oil. So I played around with it on WW.com in the recipe builder and made it a little more point friendly. My changes are next to the ingredients. With Changes it was 9 points for 1/4 of the recipe - well worth it!

Mostaccioli with Fennel, Mint and Bread Crumbs
Serves 4
2/3 cut Olive Oil (I used 2 T to sautee the garlic and fennel- I did however need to add one more T once everyone was tossed together.)

2 garlic cloves
2 fennel blubs, tops reserved, cut into 1/4 inch strips (we didn't use the fronds)
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (I used 1 cup instead)
1 T pepper flakes (I only used a couple of shakes of the jar)
8 oz. Mostaccioli or Rigatoni (I used Penne - worked fine)
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint (I chopped this up)

Bring water to boil and add the pasta. Cook until tender.

In a suatee pan add 6 T of the oil and heat until almost smoking. Add the garlic and fennel and cook until light brown and soft - about 10 minutes. Add 1 cup of bread crumbs (I did add the whole 1 C here.) and the red pepper flakes and cook 5 more minutes.

Chop reserved fennel fronds and set aside.

Drain the pasta. Add the hot pasta to the sautee pan. Add mint and toss to mix. (I stopped here with the addition of 1 T of olive oil to get things to stick). Pour into warm serving dish, sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs and fennel tops. Drizzle with remaining oil.

And here's what dinner looked like!

A tasty 2 thumbs up from the dinner table!

1 comment:

Kate said...

mmm boy, that sounds delicious. I will have to give it a try!

I love black licorice, but I too was afraid of fennel b/c who would want black licorice flavor outside of the actual candy? Hmmm?