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Posts tagged ‘fennel’

the art of surrender

It’s not as I expected…but just as I expected.

I expected hordes of people passing through our house. I knew the messes were inevitable. I knew that clouds of dust would find their way into small hidden spaces and loud noises would ring throughout the day. I knew that keeping our dogs smiling would require extra love. I knew too that without a kitchen, life would be interesting. I was ready for all that, and even my husband would attest that I’ve been quite the good sport through all most of it. But I imagined  that I could cook and I could then post what we ate for dinner. How hard could that be?

Hmmm.

As you’ve noticed, I’ve gone silent.

It’s not from lack of intention or interest. Life – moving throughout the day – just takes far more of me during this remodel than I ever imagined. It’s been good, but it’s been complicated. It’s been fun, but it’s been challenging. It’s been exhilarating and occasionally it’s been exhausting.

I used to read in the mornings, but reading has stopped. I exercised often. That was then. I corresponded with friends and family. Now it’s howdy waves in passing or texts with lots of code talk. Leaving all rhythms behind can be frustrating, and all the more so the tighter we hold.

I knew that no matter what I expected, I would be surprised. Expecting to be surprised makes surrendering to the inevitable far easier though, don’t you think?

We’re about half way through…or so we imagine. But of course we don’t know. We humans think we know a great deal and frequently we’re mistaken about that. There will be more surprises for us. (And for you.) May we find our way to be graceful through them.

Our kitchen is nearly done. Dribs and drabs remain. But we have water now, and heat to cook with. Our food is now within reach, and pots are bubbling on the stove. Spree is stirring. And though it’s Wednesday, and you might have expected vegetables (because I did lead you to that belief didn’t I?) ~ here is the smallest of offerings.

~ ~ ~

Halibut Fillets & Ribbons of Vegetables

in little paper packages

~ ~ ~

(And already another surprise…I just this very moment, we’re talking real time here, went to locate the images I’d shot of this sweet little dinner. It appears that I’ve erased them from my card …before uploading them to my computer. So – I’ll be back to fill in the images as it looks like our house may be enjoying this dish again on Saturday. :) What are you gonna do? So in the meantime, would you be so kind as to imagine a light and very tender piece of halibut nestled in a parchment package, overlaid with colorful ribbons of zucchini & carrot & fennel & red pepper & peas, all brightened by wheels of lemon, bits of ginger & sprigs of cilantro? You’re a dear!)

Days later – OK friends – even though you’ve gone to all the trouble to conjure  this dish, we’ve enjoyed the dinner again and I’ve now got the photos for you. 

You might like this with a loaf of crusty bread, wrapped in aluminum foil and put in the same oven for about 10 minutes. Or maybe boiled or roasted new potatoes, or maybe basmati rice (or that delicious Forbidden Rice, as we did.) 

 Halibut & Ribbons of Vegetables in Papillote

for 4 servings

  • 1 zucchini, sliced into ribbons or shoestrings
  • 1 carrot, again, as with your zucchini
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 handful fresh snow peas or sugar peas in their pods, thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb (tough outer layer removed) sliced thinly
  • fresh ginger root – the thickness of your thumb x 1-inch, cut into very thin matchsticks
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt & freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Meyer lemons, 1 grated & juiced, the other cut into thin wheels
  • 4 halibut fillets, about 6 to 8 ounces each (170 – 225 g) (or another mild fish of your choice)
  • Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat the oven (or toaster oven if you’re camping out indoors or feeding only 2) to 420°F (215°C).  Cut parchment paper into 14 to 16-inch square pieces.

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april’s green

I’m a sometimes-fan of raucous saturated vibrant in-your-face wild and wonderful jungle colors. But there’s something so gently sweet, so calm and mild about April’s green that fills me with a quiet contented peace. I love it when a color can do that.

Things have been busy around here, and are about to get noisy and busier still. I’m a creature of habit. I reach for things in certain places and expect to find them there.  I’m trying to ready myself for many of the common little things in my life trading places with each other ~ and for flying by the seat of my pants ~ and for setting aside comfortable knowns for “I wonder where?”s.  I’ll explain in a post coming soon. For now, I’m quite content to feast on nearly-April’s quiet. Of course, no sooner do I say that than I realize this isn’t just about me…but generally this blog does tend to be about what we eat around here. I hope you’re alright with that…I haven’t discovered a better way.

Last night I pulled some of those pale greens and creamy whites from the fridge and they became our salad. It was good enough to fix again for my lunch today, and even so good as to make me want to share it with you. So, here you are…

A salad of shaved fennel bulb – crisp and with its tinge of licorice-ness ~ thinly sliced apple, crisp and tartly sweet ~  Romaine lettuce, crisp and clean ~ (you’re getting the idea) ~ very thinly sliced red onion, just a touch to add a gentle bite (more like a friendly nip) ~ and shavings of fairly smoky, salty pecorino Romano cheese. Tossed in a bright vinaigrette ~ flavored with a just touch of roasted and crushed fennel seeds. Scatter a shower of a few more toasted fennel seeds on top if you like.

Fennel & Apple Green Salad with shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese

for 2

  • ½ of a large head of romaine lettuce
  • ½ apple – fresh, crisp and tart
  • ½ medium to large fennel bulb – stalks removed
  • about ¼ red onion, very thinly sliced (you could replace with green onion if you like)
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese – shaved – in whatever quantity pleases you

Fennel Vinaigrette

for 2

  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoon sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar of your choice – not balsamic)
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (dry roasted in a small skillet over medium low heat) – OPTIONAL – if you’d like a scattering of toasty fennel seeds on top your dressed salad, roast up to 1 teaspoon of seeds, grinding half for the dressing and scattering the rest whole

Prepare the vinaigrette in a small jar by adding all dressing ingredients, shake, and set aside for flavors to blend.

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Citrusy Chicken Kabobs with Kumquats & Fennel

I’ve received countless questions about what I eventually did with those kumquats that inspired dinner the other night!! OK, so no one’s asked. But let’s, just for a moment, pretend someone had. I’d say that we just returned from a few quiet days in Central Oregon where my love and I played scrabble on a sunny patio, walked meadows with our dogs, went to bed early, and ate simply. I’d tell them that because I knew there was a grill there, I packed my bag of lovely kumquats. (There ought to be a song.)  I thought that if anything could improve upon the incredible flavor housed in that little fruit, it would be eating them outdoors straight from the grill. I’m not going to claim they were better (I’d say)  but let me tell you what they were. The gentle heating seemed to cause the sweet peel of the kumquat to share its sugars with the tart fruit inside. I’d tell them that as a mouthful, they were deliciously warm, had the tiniest bit of sweet char, and were oozy with juice! Paired with the citrusy-marinated chicken and grilled fennel bulb, it was quite the flavorful plateful! And thank you for asking! (I’d say.)

(For alternative ways to prepare a similar meal, or for substitutions, see Other Options at the bottom of the page.)

Earlier I shared a favorite Moroccan recipe for orange, red onion, olive and fennel salad. I suppose this dinner was inspired by that salad.

Citrusy Chicken Kabobs with Kumquats & Fennel

(serves 4 – 6)

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless, large chicken breasts
  • 2 or 3 small, or 1 to 2 large, fennel bulbs (fronds, stems and hard core removed, bulb cut into wedges or cubes)
  • 1 – 2 red onion, cut into cubes or wedges
  • kumquats – minimum of 4 per person (you’re going to love them)
  • olive oil to brush on the onions and fennel
  • metal skewers

for marinade:

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt & coarsely ground pepper

Prepare the chicken by removing  cartilage, veins and fat. Cut into 1-inch cubes.

Prepare the marinade in a small bowl by whisking all marinade ingredients together. Either in a gallon-size sealable plastic bag or in a medium bowl, combine the marinade and the cut-up chicken. Coat the chicken well and refrigerate (covered with plastic if using bowl) for about an hour. (30 minutes minimum.)

I recommend skewering the onions on a separate skewer, and likewise, the fennel bulb. You can combine kumquats with chicken pieces, or put each on their own skewer. (I did some of each – cut kumquats when skewered with the chicken.) In any case, you don’t want to overcrowd them or they won’t cook properly.

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Grilled Salmon with Fennel, two ways

Nothing compares to the wild salmon from Alaska’s Copper River. Deeply red-orange, silky-tender, succulent, somehow smelling as clean as forest air and tasting of the sea – it’s an amazing fish.  We’ll have it several times during its fairly short season – and we’re in it now. I’ll be honest – Copper River salmon is one of those things that  needs nothing to be a spectacular meal. Sea salt and freshly-cracked pepper, put on the grill, a good squirt of lemon and it will melt in your mouth and lodge itself in your memory. You want to do nothing to disrupt or mask this exquisite taste. We’ll often enjoy it simple, just that way.

That being said, fennel is one of those foods that marries perfectly with the richness of wild salmon. In a recipe posted in late May, I shared a favorite rub that features ground fennel seed with many other spices. Here again salmon is paired with fennel, first with a simple rub of ground fennel and salt, and then served alongside grilled wedges of fennel bulb and red onion. Taken together, it’s smoky, sweet, and simply delicious.

(For this particular recipe you can use a less-expensive and more-readily available salmon – sockeye would be just fine. This time, we couldn’t resist the Copper River.)

(Serves 4)

For the fennel salt:

  • 1 tablespoon dried fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

For the vegetables:

  • 1 large fennel bulb, stems removed, cut into thin wedges (& small frond pieces reserved for garnish)
  • 1 red onion, cut into thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

  • 1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • salt to taste
  • 4 cups mixed small-leaf salad greens 

For the salmon:

  • 1 pound sockeye or other salmon fillet, skin on, cut in 4 equal portions, or left as one large piece
  • vegetable oil for oiling the grill

To prepare the fennel salt, grind together the fennel, salt and pepper in a spice grinder. Set asude.

To prepare the vegetables, toss the fennel and onion with olive oil and just 1 teaspoon of the fennel salt in a medium bowl.

To prepare the salad, in a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, mustard, cayenne, honey and salt. Just before serving, lightly coat the greens with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Reserve the rest of the dressing as a sauce for the salmon.

To prepare the salmon, remove the pin bones. (You can use needle-nose pliers or tweezers.) Coat all flesh sides of the salmon with the remaining fennel salt and pat it on to adhere. Place the salmon on a plate and hold in the refrigerator until ready.

Preheat an outdoor gas grill or indoor grill pan to high heat. Oil the grill rack with vegetable oil. Grill the fennel wedges and onion slices for 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender but still crisp.

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Lemon-Fennel Chicken Skewers

A soft and gentle rain, almost sweet, fell yesterday as I readied the grill. I was determined to make this dinner, even in a downpour, and this was definitely not that. No rain gear required. Skewers provide for a very fast dinner on the grill (if you’ve got a reason to be in a hurry.) But I was enjoying being called outside into this light sprinkling and I almost wished dinner had taken longer. The air smelled like sheets hung out to dry; a muted hush had fallen; tiny raindrops sizzled as they hit the grill; all the colors saturated, and a little shimmer lit up everything that lived. I was only out there for a short time, but it was a joy, simple, quiet and held onto lightly.

(Oh. I should say something about the dinner! Just plain yummy. And it didn’t last long either!)

Lemon-Fennel Chicken Skewers

(Serves 6 )

  • 1 Tbl. fennel seeds
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 t. salt
  • 3 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 lemons, halves lengthwise and cut into 1/8″ half-moons

In a small pan over medium heat, toast the fennel seeds, shaking the pan frequently, until they’re fragrant, about 4 minutes. Remove them from the pan and allow to cool. With a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder, finely grind the seeds. In a small bowl, whisk together the fennel seed, lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, olive oil and salt. (I tasted it at this point and thought, how wonderful! I want this on a salad!) Put the cut-up chicken into a gallon-size resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over it. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.

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