Monday, November 10, 2014

Roasted Fennel with Olives & Garlic

Roasted Fennel with Olives & Garlic
Serves: 8
Difficulty: Easy
Roasted Fennel with Olives & Garlic
Like so many vegetables, fennel is another that only improves with roasting. This recipe takes almost no time to prepare; yet the overall effect is complex. I have made this about a half dozen times. Preparation is minimal and the results are incredible. Elegant enough for a dinner party but perfect anytime. It is a perfect Thanksgiving side dish. The flavors are superb. Even better the next day......if you are lucky enough to have any left over. Fennel's unique aromatic taste is reminiscent of licorice and anise, especially in the raw state. However, roasting the fennel totally changes the taste, nothing at all like licorice. Once cooked, it becomes very sweet….surprisingly so.
Fresh fennel

Fennel is an under appreciated vegetable. It is a versatile vegetable playing an important role in Mediterranean cuisines, especially France and Italy. Good quality fennel will have bulbs that are clean, firm and solid, without signs of splitting, bruising or spotting. The bulbs should be whitish or pale green in color. The stalks should be relatively straight and closely superimposed around the bulb and should not splay out to the sides too much. Both the stalks and the leaves should be green in color.
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 4 small, (3-inch diameter), fennel bulbs, trimmed, each cut vertically into 8 wedges with core attached to each wedge
  • ¼ C extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tb chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 tsp dried crushed red pepper
  • 6 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • ½ C halved pitted Kalamata olives 

Fennel after cleaning
Preheat oven to 425-degree F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Combine fennel, olive oil, thyme and crushed red pepper in large bowl; toss to coat all. Spread fennel out on baking sheet; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. 

Ready to roast....
Roast fennel 15 minutes. Distribute crushed garlic cloves over fennel wedges. Using tongs, turn wedges over, doing your best to bury the crushed garlic under the fennel wedges. 

Return to the oven and roast until tender, turning one more time, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle olives over roasted fennel. Return to oven one more time. Roast until fennel begins to brown at edges, about 8 minutes longer. Season fennel with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve. 
This can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.  Serve warm or at room temperature. If no space for additional roasting in your oven, one could mimic the above using a heavy bottomed sauté pan and “caramelize” on stovetop.

If you are looking for additional Thanksgiving-ish dishes, look no further! How about the Sweet Potato Pancakes with Caviar as a simple appetizer or side dish:
Or for the vegetarians or vege-loving guests, check out Roasted Acorn Squash stuffed with peppers, mushrooms & cheese: 
and the ever popular Kabocha Squash with Sunchokes, Mushrooms & Cheese: 
Lastly for the sweet nibble at the end, check out Salted Pumpkin Caramels with Pepitas:

Next week – another great holiday appetizer or side dish: Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Caviar & Crème Fraiche.

Bon Appetit!


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