Friday, November 04, 2016

Jumpin' Jacks: Braised Fennel

We have long since learned our lesson about carving our pumpkins too early in the month of October.  Heck, the pumpkin we carved this year at the carving competition got so moldy that we had to trash it before Halloween which was only 5 days later.

So our new plan is to jack-o-lantern our pumpkins the weekend before Halloween, so they're still standing when the big night rolls around.  Which meant Saturday we spread out our garbage bags, rolled up our sleeves, and went to work.

With Hotel Transylvania on as we did our thing, we scooped and cut.  Well, most of us.  Thatbaby is still a little young for the carving, so Thatboy carved his pumpkin for him.  And then let him go at it with the scoop and pokey-tool.

Thatkid however, did his pumpkin all by himself.  He picked the design, and did all the actual carving!

It took us a little longer than usual, with Thatboy not finishing his pumpkin until after the kids went to bed, but overall it was a success!

The weather here even cooled down, as if to give us the perfect fall day for the holiday.  And I turned once gain to some of the heartier vegetables of the season - fennel.  I love the versatility of fennel.  Sliced thin it's one of my favorite additions to a crisp salad - either in the summer, combined with ripe tomatoes, or in the winter, paired with bright citrus and sharp cheese.  But it is equally as delicious served in a more traditional way, roasted or braised.  While roasting fennel adds an earthy sweetness to the vegetable, braising it softens it's tougher exterior, helping it perfectly melt into the flavors of the herbs and wine it's cooked in.  I specify plum tomatoes in this dish, because I find them to be the best kind of tomatoes this time of year.  Smaller and firmer, they stand their ground a little better in the braising liquid as well.

Braised Fennel
4 fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut in quarters
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup water
8 scallions, cut into 2 inch lengths
4 plum tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 Tbsp oregano, chopped
1/3 cup beef broth
12 basil leaves

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the fennel and garlic cloves and saute for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the bay leaf, wine, and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the scallions, cover the pan, and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Uncover, add the tomatoes, oregano, and broth and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the basil and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper.

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