Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fabulous Fennel (and Grapes)

I’m having all kinds of discoveries already this CSA season. As noted in my last post, only on my second box, I’ve found a favorite new way to cook zucchini (with raisins!), and today I found out that I like fennel. What’s even more strange is that this recipe has grapes in it. That has to be the surprise ingredient of the season.

The recipe was so simple it barely had a name, only appearing as Fennel, Chickpeas, Peppers and Grapes on the piece of paper I had torn from Whole Living magazine. It was part of an article titled, “Culinary School” and fell under 2. Roasting.

The article said that most people know about roasting vegetables, but that adding fruit or beans to roasted vegetables could add a greater dimension. The instructions were simple, just slice the vegetables, drizzle with olive oil and toss in some herbs and salt and pepper.

In addition to the aforementioned fennel, chickpeas, peppers and red grapes, the recipe also called for garlic. For spices, I used dried oregano instead of fresh, since I didn’t have any on hand. After tossing with olive oil, I cooked them at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Roasting took the edge off the fennel, a vegetable that for my taste tends to overpower a dish. Part of the problem I’ve had in the past is finding the right flavors to go with its licorice taste. This dish, which combined the spicy taste of peppers and the sweet taste of grapes, along with the roasted chickpeas somewhere in the middle, seemed just right. Roasting also seemed to soften both the flavor and texture of the sometimes stringy vegetable.

All in all I was surprised again by the addition of the sweet grapes in such a strong dish. But the article was right. The grapes, and the chickpeas, did add a different dimension. This recipe will go on the top of my fennel recipe pile for the future. It's also a good reminder to try adding a few unexpected tastes here and there.

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