Fennelification

21 Jun

I had a strange experience yesterday. Things were going a little haywire at work and I was feeling rudderless when I received an email from the Boy. “Have you read this yet?” he typed, “If I didn’t know better I’d swear you wrote it…”

Bay Ridge God Sky

I took a deep breath, mentally closed my ears, turned away from my bulging-over inbox and clicked on the link. It is was an almost offputting sensation, reading someone else’s words that so eerily echo my own in tone and spirit, but the more I read, the more pleasant it became. I think Melissa Clark and I would get on very well if we ever bumped into each other.

She over shops at the Greenmarket just as I do and contemplates pork products, one of my favorite activities on the face of the earth. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my eccentricities. It’s also nice to know that I could possibly work at the Gray Lady.

Bay Ridge Gingerbread House

In fact just last week I, “fell into a frenzied state of shopping euphoria, buying copious quantities of perishable green stuff.” That’s Ms. Clark’s phrase but it fits exactly what I did. I bought Puntarelle! Upland Cress! Wild Arugula! Baby Fennel! Breakfast Radishes! Shelling Peas! Three kinds of Chevre! A whole wheat Baguette!

Who was I feeding you might ask? Just me and the Boy. Talk about eyes bigger than one’s stomach!

But, no, I was wrong. Out of the blue, the Boy’s friend from home was going to be in the area for business and wanted to stop over. For once my haul was useful! It had a purpose! And yet, even after concocting a huge salad for dinner to eat along with the bread and cheese, there were still greens leftover to linger in the fridge.

And so over the weekend I concocted a simple, snappy, springy pasta dish to use up all the leftovers, including the citrus and onions that have been hanging out since my flirtation with huachinango.

Radicchio Pasta With Citrus Braised Baby Fennel

I caramelized two sweet onions which were then given a citrus and vermouth spa treatment where they were joined by the baby fennel. I left them to braise with green garlic while I boiled up some radicchio linguine and pounded hazelnuts into submission. When the pasta was done it joined the citrusy fennel. Each serving then got a dollop of goat ricotta and a sprinkling of filberts.

Can you tell what I forgot? Yes, the greens. They were supposed to go in at the very last minute to, “add a correctively spicy bite to keep things from getting too cloying,” a role played by radishes in Ms. Clark’s dish. See, we even think alike, but sadly, she actually remembers the maligned vegetables in her crisper drawer, while for me, obviously, it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind. This is just one of the many reasons why I should never be trusted to watch over children and small dogs.

Even missing that spicy bite, the dish was outstanding. Satsuma are such a nice fruit. They’re not overly assertive and have the most magical perfume. Their softness perfectly harmonized with the baby fennel who are still growing into their anisey adulthood.

Radicchio Pasta With Citrus Braised Baby Fennel

And the goat’s milk ricotta? Ridiculous. Is there anything goats can’t do better than cows? I suppose steaks, but thats not what we’re here for. I’ve always found ricotta, while perfectly creamy and wonderfully textured, to be rather insipid and bland. Not so goat ricotta. It’s a bit richer feeling in the mouth and just ever so slightly barnyardy and sweet. The perfect foil for this dish. If you can’t find goat ricotta, you could make your own if you can find goat’s milk.

And so, on this first day of summer, I give you this perfectly springy dish.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Radicchio Pasta with Citrus-Braised Baby Fennel.

Radicchio Pasta with Citrus-Braised Baby Fennel

prep time: 20 minutes ~ cooking time: 30 minutes

  • 1 box Radicchio Pasta (this is a Venetian specialty that I can’t find a website for)
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 Sweet Onions (Maui or Vidalia), chopped
  • 2 bunches Baby Fennel, washed and sliced
  • 2 heads Green Garlic, minced
  • 1 Lemon, juiced
  • 2 Satsumas, juiced
  • Vermouth
  • Salt, Pepper & Chile Flakes
  • Goat’s Milk Ricotta
  • Hazelnuts, chopped or pounded in a mortar & pestle

Set a large pot of heavily salted water to boil.

Set a sautée pan over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil and the onions. Allow to cook until just becoming caramelized. Add the citrus juices, green garlic and baby fennel. Add enough vermouth to nearly cover the fennel. Stir to combine. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil, then lower heat to maintain an even simmer.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. When the pasta is nearly done, taste the sauce and season with salt, pepper and chile flakes to taste. It should not be overly aggressively citrusy. Drain the pasta and add to the sautée pan. Stir to coat with the sauce and to evenly distribute the vegetables.

To serve: Place a mound of pasta in the middle of each plate, top with a healthy dollop of goat ricotta and a dusting of hazelnuts. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!

15 Responses to “Fennelification”

  1. jennbecluv June 21, 2007 at 11:42 am #

    Well, if YOU get along with Melissa Clark, I’LL be the third musketeer! I routinely bring home giant sacks of vegetables from the urban farm next door and then find myself noddling how the heck to use them all. Love this recipe and plan to try it tonight with a few substitutes according to what’s left in my proverbial sack. Have to ask…are satsumas something like an orange or tangerine? Haven’t had the pleasure of making their acquaintence yet.

  2. skat June 21, 2007 at 12:34 pm #

    Like you, and Melissa, I’m forever going dewey-eyed over farm market vegetables… then discovering them, in utter horror, two weeks later in the crisper drawer. Still, I love the ways the chair, the veg and the friend coming over all worked out at once!

    Oh, and “Cali-fennelcation…”

  3. ann June 21, 2007 at 5:34 pm #

    Hi Jennbecluv! — Satsumas are a type of orange, I think. This article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikan) calls them Mikan and says they’re just tangerines, but the ones I got didn’t look, taste or feel like tangerines. Their peels were a little saggy, and they were so mild and sweet and lovely and fragrant. Maybe I’m just not that familiar with all the citruses out there! Anyway, I hope you enjoy the recipe!

    S’kat — LOL! I didn’t even think of the RHCP connection… I was going for a combo of fennel and edification, but that’s totally funnier!

  4. Christina June 21, 2007 at 7:01 pm #

    Sounds amazing! Oh how I love fennel. Let me count the fronds . . ..

    Hey, I did make goat milk ricotta just last week, as a matter of fact. (You need to get out of my head.) I used the recipe I found at Nourish Me–it turned out to be lovely stuff, and I’ve been using it everywhere from lasagna to a breakfast spread. It isn’t hard and it makes one feel very accomplished to make one’s own cheese.

  5. Mary June 21, 2007 at 7:10 pm #

    There’s something funny going on here. I got a message from my husband about that article too and it basically said the same thing. I also a made a pasta dish two nights ago with the greens hanging out in the fridge and the overstock from the farmer’s market. Mine was orrechietti, caramelized onion, garlic shoots, spinach, PORK sausage, topped with GOAT cheese. My husband saw my dinner plans and said I was going to heat up the kitchen too much, but then a huge breeze came along and the temperature dropped about 8 degrees all of a sudden just before dinner prep got started. Ha! This thing must be contagious (unless it’s genetic). May I please steal your idea for pork with roasted rhubarb? It’s stuck in my head and won’t go away. Maybe we’ve all been hanging out together too much.

  6. ann June 21, 2007 at 8:31 pm #

    Christina — Seriously? You made goat’s milk ricotta? *puts on Elaine Bennis outfit* Get out! That’s amazing. My stepsister gave me a cheesemaking “kit” for Christmas a few years ago that I’ve done nothing with up until now. Maybe this is the noodge I need. Thanks!

    Mary — Wow. That’s strange, but I guess it’s that time of year! And the rhubarb/pork idea, it’s so yours. I don’t think I’m going to get to it this weekend and I think this will probably be the last weekend for rhubarb here. It’s about to get hot and dry. If you try it, I hope it works! I think it’s a great idea.

  7. Lydia June 21, 2007 at 10:10 pm #

    Oh, yum! Such a perfect spring dish. Fennel and goat cheese together are great. I’d never had goat’s milk ricotta until recently; there’s a goat farm up the road from me that has started making its own cheese. The feta is to-die-for, and they’re now doing a fromage blanc, too. And the ricotta. Sooooo good.

  8. Ulla June 22, 2007 at 8:08 pm #

    Your photos are stunning!:)

  9. jenblossom June 23, 2007 at 6:15 pm #

    I’m such a huge dork for the fennel… this sounds amazing!

  10. ann June 24, 2007 at 10:32 am #

    Ulla — thanks! So are yours!

    Jenblossom — Fennel dork. LOL.

  11. Anne June 24, 2007 at 3:53 pm #

    The boy is right…you DO write very similarly to Melissa Clark, whom happens to be one of my favorite food writers. Makes sense that I like your blog so much.

    You use such great, original ingredients. Where oh where did you find raddichino pasta?

  12. ann June 24, 2007 at 4:01 pm #

    Anne — Man, I’d love to say I found the pasta somewhere exciting and exotic, but sadly, it was at work… I was too lazy to go anywhere good for lunch so I settled on the Garden of Eden hotbar (again) and as I was walking through the pasta aisle, boom! there they were. I just bought another box, and I’m afraid to say it may have been the last one… Maybe a different GofE (I go to the one on 14th near 5th ave) would still have them? And thanks for the compliment, that’s so neighbor-like of you!

  13. Susan in Italy June 25, 2007 at 4:54 am #

    Cajeta is another way that goats far surpass cows. A thick, spoonable caramel, Mexican goat’s miolk cajeta is so much better than the (already good) Argentinian dulce de leche. It’s got a tang that makes the bitter- sweet of caramel all the more delicious.

  14. ann June 25, 2007 at 8:10 am #

    Oh Susan, I nearly forgot about Cajeta! Can you imagine, cajeta over some goat’s milk ice cream? To borrow a phrase, that would be redonk!

  15. wellunderstood July 2, 2007 at 8:06 am #

    i must make this.

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