F is for Fennel

fennel

I never used to eat Fennel.  In Australia it is uncommon and often difficult to find. That changed when I moved to France where it is treated as a common vegetable always sitting somewhere between the lettuce and cucumbers.   In France not only is it affordable it is simply prepared. Most commonly it is served as a side salad, roughly cut with a squeeze of lemon.

One of my favourite fennel recipes is salmon pasta with a fennel side salad, but as this site requires an unusual principal ingredient, the recipe will have to wait for another time.

When selecting your fennel bulb do not choose one with flowers as this means the bulb is too old. You want a bulb without discolouration that is clean and solid. Fennel is best used within 3-4 days of purchasing and stored in the vegetable crisper, wrapped in plastic.

Fennel is very good for you with high levels of Vitamin C.  Pleasingly fennel has no fat and it contains Phytonutrients that have shown to reduce inflammation, and in animal testing prevent cancer and reduce the risk of liver disease.

I am making fennel pizza because it showcases the subtle flavour of the fennel and caramelised fennel is to die for.

FENNEL AND GOATS CHEESE PIZZA

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pizza base
  • garlic oil (recipe below)
  • 1 baby turnip, peeled and very thinly sliced (a mandoline works beautifully here)
  • caramelized fennel (recipe below)
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • chunks of fresh mozarella, optional
  • 3 oz crumbled goat cheese (1/2 cup or so)
  • reserved fennel fronds

Preheat oven to 450 with rack on the bottom. Stretch out the dough into a 16-inch or so rectangle or circle, depending on your pan, using flour to keep everything from sticking. Brush the dough from edge to edge with garlic oil. Layer with turnips, caramelised fennel and onion slices and sprinkle everything with salt and pepper. Par-bake pizza for 6 – 7 minutes.

Add goat cheese and mozzarella, if using, and return to oven until cheese is melted and crust is golden. Top with fennel fronds and dressed greens.

Dressed greens:

  • baby spinach or arugula
  • 2 tablespoons garlic oil
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • squeeze of dijon

Whisk together last three ingredients, season with salt and pepper and toss with greens just before topping pizza.

Garlic oil:

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

Heat oil and garlic together on medium heat in a small pan, just until bubbles begin to show around edges of garlic. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove garlic cloves and store in a repurposed glass jar at room temperature.  Make ahead: will keep for up to six months.

Caramelized fennel:

  • 1 large fennel bulb (fronds trimmed, reserved) sliced thinly through the root end
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • few drops maple syrup
  • coarse salt
  • fennel seeds

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium/medium-high. Add half the fennel and arrange in a single layer, allowing to cook until golden-brown on the bottom. Flip each slice and sprinkle with salt and a half teaspoon of fennel seeds; sprinkle a few drops of maple syrup around the pan and cook until fennel is caramelized, lowering heat if browning too quickly. Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining fennel slices. Make ahead: store covered in the fridge for up to 48 hours.

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