Today I visited a new Farmer’s Market to scope out their fresh produce and see if they had more to offer. Before I went in, I quickly glanced at a new cookbook in my car that my sister recently got me. It is called Plenty and it focuses on delicious and interesting vegetable recipes. I was really excited when I saw this gorgeous photo of Caramelized Fennel because I have been wanting to learn how to cook with fennel. So, the inspiration for my trip to the market was this recipe that called for fennel, dill, lemon, garlic and goat cheese.
Just as I was leaving the market, I saw this goat cheese stand with beautiful mason jars filled with goat cheese, olive oil and herbs. The guy let me try a few flavors and then informed me that the goat cheese I wanted was $12 for a large jar. Unfortunately, I only had $3 left in cash :(. What is a girl to do in this situation? Clearly, walking .5 a mile to the nearest ATM is the only solution. I nearly ran back to the market to make sure there would still be goat cheese left. You can shake your head and laugh at me now, but truly, the goat cheese was too good to pass up.
Seriously? Seriously?! OMG. This was my reaction when I finished making this recipe and finally got to try it. It is SO good. I am thrilled to start making my way through pages and pages of delicious vegetable recipes. All I can really say is go buy yourself some fennel (even if you have never tried it) and make this dish.
Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese- in the book Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi- Serves 4
4 small fennel bulbs
3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
2 tbsp sugar ( I used organic cane sugar)
1 tsp fennel seeds ( I didn’t have these on hand, so I went without)
coarse sea salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
3/4 cup roughly chopped dill (leaves and stalks)
5 oz young and creamy goat cheese
grated zest of 1 lemon
1. Start by preparing the fennel bulbs. First take off the leafy fronds and keep them for the garnish. Then slice off some of the root part and remove any tough or brown outer layers, making sure the base still holds everything togeher. Cut each bulb lengthways into 1/2 inch thick slices.
2. Melt half the butter with half the oil in a large frying pan placed over high heat. When the butter starts to foam add a layer of sliced fennel. Do not overcrowd the pan and don’t turn the fennel over or stir it around in the pan until one side has become light golden, which will take about 2 minutes. Then turn the slices over using tongs and cook for a further 1 to 2 minutes. Remove fro the pan. Continue with the rest of the fennel, using up the remaining butter and oil.
3. Once all the fennel has been seared, add the sugar, fennel seeds and plenty of salt and pepper to the pan. Fry for 30 seconds, then return all the fennel slices to the pan and caramelize gently for 1 to 2 minutes (they need to remain firm inside so just allow them to be coated in the melting sugar and seeds). Remove the fennel from the pan and leave to cool down on a plate.
4. To serve, toss the fennel in a bowl with the garlic and dill. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Arrange on a serving plate and dot with spoonfuls of goat cheese. Finish with a drizzle of oil and a scattering of lemon zest. Garnish with fennel fronds. Serve at room temperature.