Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fennel Musings

I love fennel. There I've said it. After years of hating it, I am now overcome with joy at the prospect of fennel season. I walked into the kitchen a few weeks ago, a little late and shaking off the cold and the rain. I was greeted by the mellow smell of steaming fennel and zucchini. I immediately knew it was going to be a good day. Fennel was back. And it was a good day. Nothing extraordinary happened. It was just a good day. There's something about fennel that lends an elegance and warmth to things, so the whole day felt warm and elegant. It felt good to be serving it- like I was at some fancy restaurant, and I could say, "Here, ma'am, you must try the fennel." It made me cheerful.

I didn't find the following recipe at a  fancy restaurant-but I could have. It's the type of recipe that, theoretically one would taste in a restaurant and say- hey, I want to make that- and then adapt for the home kitchen, except in this case the "restaurant" is Food52. Food52 is an awesome website/database of community sourced recipes run by Amanda Hesser and Merril Stubbs. It really has become the first place I look when I am looking for a recipe. singing_baker's recipe for Roasted Fennel and White Bean Dip  on the sight caught my eye a while ago. It's a great elegant party dish. Roasted fennel is pureed with cannelli beans, lightly roasted garlic, lemon and rosemary and then placed in a baking dish, topped with Parmesan and baked until golden and bubbly. It is pure wonderfulness. But sometimes, its Friday, and you're rushing around as you are wont to do, and you realize that a) you have no white beans in the house and b) you don't have time for the last baking step. So this is what you do. You grab a can of chickpeas and throw them in the food processor with some roasted fennel, garlic, rosemary and lemon. You dump the whole mixture in a tupperware, mix in some grated Parmesan, run into the shower, light  Shabbat candles and sprint out of the house. (What? Doesn't everybody have Fridays like that?) Then, you present the dish to your hosts, slightly breathlessly (because you are late), sans white beans and sans bubbly cheese. And it is delicious.

So, first of all, I implore you, check out Food52 and singing-baker's original recipe. Then, when you are rushed, or slightly lazy and want to skip a step, make this.

Roasted Fennel and Bean Dip
Adapted from singing_baker at Food52

Notes: I use canned chickpeas because that's what I usually have on hand. If you have canned, frozen or cooked white beans, please, go ahead and use them. For that matter, if you have frozen or cooked chickpeas you can use those as well.

For the roasted fennel:
1 large, or 2 small bulbs of fennel, cut into 1 inch pieces
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
salt, pepper

For the beans:
3/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chickpeas, or white beans (canned is fine)
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon  freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated.

1. Roast the fennel: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss fennel and garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, squeeze the cloves of garlic out of their skins. This step can be done ahead.

2. Heat 1/2 cup of olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and cook until lightly golden. Add the rosemary and beans and cook one minute more.

3. Combine roasted fennel, bean mixture, lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in cheese. Serve.


  1. That sounds nice! When are you making it (read: when am i coming over and eating it?)?

  2. Just came back from taking your parents to the airport. Enjoy them! I'll miss them over here. especially since my parents are also going out of town leaving me high and dry. As I said before, I enjoy reading your blog! Regards to your little sister.

  3. Naoms, we'll have to make a project of it.

    Anons- thanks for taking care of my parents. I know they appreciate it. We miss you over here. Come visit! Love to the whole fam.