First, sorry it has been so long since a new post. I’ve had a rough week, both in terms of work and with my knee. It’s been very frusturating and I’ve lost a bit of motivation to do much. More on that this weekend. But, I’m getting back on track and putting up a new blog post that I’ve been meaning to do since Monday seems like a good way to start.
I love fennel. Seriously and utterly love it. It has such a distinct and refreshing flavor that I could probably take a fennel bulb and eat it like an apple if I had the guts. But that would be weird…and I’m not quite THAT weird. The flavor, however, is not, by any means, for everyone. If you hate licorice, you might not like it. If you hate vegetables, you might not like it. However, if you hate vegetables, this might not be the blog for you. I suggest you look away. If you do like vegetables that kinda taste like licorice and are very crispy and refreshing, please, continue!
I first started really loving fennel early last summer when I started shopping regularly at the Green Market (the farmers market) in Union Square. Before last June, I rarely went because it isn’t super close and it never crossed my mind to go. This is kinda odd, however, because I always love going to the farmers market in Cleveland and love fresh vegetables and fruits, so you would think the Green Market would be first on my list when I moved to New York. It wasn’t, though, I think my brain was off for a year. Anyway, one Saturday morning last June, I decided to try it out and ventured out on the 25 minute walk to Union Square. Wow. The Green Market is truely amazing. There is so much produce of every sort there-all local and in season of course. Along with pies and jams and other yummies. I could have spent my entire life savings there the first time. (However, I do want to do a full post another time on the Green Market, so I’m not going to go much further.) But, being the penny-pincher that I am, I had a budget of $20 that I was going to stick to. So, I looked for everything that was really cheap. And one of the things I found was a stand selling beautiful looking fennel bulbs for $.50 each. 50 cents!!! I’m a girl who loves a bargain, so I was smitten. I bought one, stuck it in my bag and ventured off to the rest of the massive market to use every last penny.
I had only had fennel a couple of times before that, so I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. And, I had never had it raw. Crazy-I know. So, in order to experience it in all it’s fresh glory, I had it raw, in a salad. And it was a-mazing. I can seriously remember that salad (I ate it while watching The French Connection) and remember every enjoyable bit when I happened to pick of a chunk of fennel with my fork. Since then, it has been pure love. For the rest of the summer and early fall, the stand with the fennel was always my first stop at the market so I could get a bulb before they sold out (being the only farmer that sold fennel, this happened fast) and have loved every crispy, licorice-y bite. Yum.
It’s not fennel season yet right now though. Which almost brings tears to my eyes, but not quite. Because Whole Foods has been selling beautiful fennel-not for 50 cents but for $1.50-which has fueled my fennel addiction. When I was there this past Sunday, crabby and depressed from my knee, a beautiful, unblemished bulb called to me from the distant top shelf that often gets ignored in the produce department. Although it might not be considered comfort food to most people, fennel was my comfort food that night.
The rest of the dish I concocted around the fennel. I decided to make a moroccan(ish) quinoa that I would stir the fennel into. And I had a container of currants that had been sitting on my refrigerator for (literally) a year, unopened. That would be a nice addition. As well as some toasted pine nuts. And fennel seeds (can’t leave those out!) I ended up cooking the fennel seperate from the quinoa because I wanted it to stay crispy and I wanted a nice burnt crust to it. I sauteed it in a non-stick pan with a teeny bit of olive oil while the quinoa was cooking and I did it over a pretty high heat so I could get it a little burnt while still staying crispy. When the quinoa and the fennel was done, I stirred it all together and it was perfect. Seriously, a perfect dish. The little pine nuts and the plump currants and the fennel seeds were so amazing, as well as the spiced quinoa. But, oh that fennel, with little bits of quinoa stuck to it, was right on the money. And it gave the the much needed comfort I was begging for.
Curry Quinoa with Fennel (serves 2 good sized dinner portions)
1 bulb of fennel, quartered and sliced
1/3 + 1/4 cups of quinoa
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons dried currants
1 teaspoon yellow curry
1/2 teaspoon red curry
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1-2 teaspoons fennel seeds
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 + 3/4 cups of water
First, toast the pine nuts in a non-stick pan on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Watch very carefully and toss nuts very frequently to prevent burning. Set aside. Combine the quinoa, spices, fennel seeds, salt, pepper and water in a pot. Stir ingredients so everything is combined evenly, cover with a lid and put it on medium-low heat. In an non-stick pan, put about a half a teaspoon of olive oil and add the fennel that has been sliced. Cook this over medium-high heat until it’s cooked to your desired doneness. I kept it crunchy but seared, about 10 minutes, stirring pretty frequently (every minute or so). When the quinoa is finished cooking (about 15 minutes-all the water will be absorbed and the quinoa will have ‘sprouted’), combine the quinoa and fennel. Please enjoy!!