I’m always amazed at the color and diversity of winter produce at the CSA. I love the abundance of greens and got two of my favorites this week. But other colors of the rainbow were represented in the orange of the carrots, citrus and sweet potatoes and the pinks and purples of the easter egg radishes. A feast for the eyes as well as the belly!
And this week I got another unfamiliar item: fennel. Maybe it’s because I’m from the Deep South, but I’ve never really come across fennel much so this was one of those CSA learning experiences for me. Isn’t it pretty?
And so big! It looks like mostly stalks and fronds, but recipes usually call for just the bulbs. As fate would have it, I had just stumbled upon a recipe that I was dying to use that called for fennel. It’s from a gorgeous blog that you should approach with caution. It may cause you to sell off all your belongings, move to the French countryside and learn to hunt morels. The writer is Mimi Thorisson, an impossibly beautiful mother of three (or four, I lose count) of French and Chinese origin who after living in Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Reykjavik and Paris now lives in the Medoc region of France in the most gorgeous countryside I’ve ever seen. And her recipes are swoon-worthy. The one that caught my eye most recently was Roasted Sausages with Fennel – so I made sure to pick up some Italian link sausages from the CSA when I picked up my produce, cut the fennel bulbs and an onion into wedges and roasted them with the sausages in a red wine gravy. Which I served with some sauteed garlic spinach and baked sweet potatoes on the side. It. Was. Amazing. That mild licorice taste from the fennel was out of this world.
Here was the oven full of Awesome.
This lush bag of velvety spade-shaped leaves was sauteed in olive oil and minced garlic and of course S&P. About as simple as you can get, and it still doesn’t get much better.
Not surprisingly, this Southern gal has a deep fondness for sweet potatoes. Not much needed here but a slight slathering in olive oil, prick the skin a few times with a fork and roast in a 400 degree oven until it’s oozing a caramel-like substance. A pat of butter and heaven is served.
Next up was a healthy quinoa salad – y’know, to offset all that sausage-y, red wine-y richness from the night before. And I’m starting to realize the benefits of making a BIG amount of a grain dish and using it throughout the week. I basically cooked a pound of quinoa (2 cups uncooked), carmelized sliced onions in a good amount of olive oil (between 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup) for 15-20 minutes, and mixed it all together with the following, but use whatever you want/have on hand:
- 1 cup of toasted pine nuts (from Trader Joe’s so they weren’t crazy expensive but other toasted nuts or seeds would do)
- The bunch of arugula from the csa – they were bigger, more mature leaves, so I chopped them and wilted them in a pan with a scan amount of oil before adding (using the same pan as the onions)
- Roasted red and yellow peppers, chopped
- Fronds from the fennel (that’s actually a pretty fun phrase to say)
- Goat cheese (feta would have been easier, ie more crumbly, but this is what I had and it rocked)
So this quinoa mixture (inspired by this recipe) can be used throughout the week as sides or a lunch salad or with an egg on top (which I’ll demonstrate later). But this night, I went the salad route. First, the ‘under salad’, a frilly petticoat of lettuce, sliced easter egg radishes (which were red, purple and white!), all laced with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.
Then you dollop the quinoa mix on top and garnish with whatever sompin’ sompin’ you have – like shaved asiago cheese and more feathery fennel fronds (see what I did there?).
The next morning, I piled some of the quinoa in a bowl, sauteed some chopped stems from some previous winter green in a little olive oil, squeezed lemon juice on top, fried up a gorgeous egg from a local farm and had one of my favorite breakfasts at my desk – just look at that yolk!
Finally, I came across an intriguing recipe for an extremely common soup: Kale and White Beans. I’ve posted a recipe or two from Nourished Kitchen already, but here’s another one. The big difference is starting off with fried up bacon. Oh my stars. This was absolutely delicious and made the house smell amazing. It included a huge soffrito of the carrots diced up with onions and celery and I even cooked the cannellini beans myself, though truth be told, I would have no problem using canned. This week’s kale was the really dense, pebbly ‘dino’ kale which is my favorite. As the recipe stated, I waited until the end of the cooking time, sliced them into thin ribbons and tossed them in to wilt in the hot broth. They maintained their vivid green color and made a bright counterpoint to the richness of the rest of the soup.
Ah, one more tantalizing detail in the soup is cooking it with the rind of a wedge of parmesan cheese. If you regularly use parma cheese, when you get to the end of the wedge and are down to the hard rind, don’t throw it away! Wrap it in plastic or foil and stick it in the freezer. Then when it’s time for an Italian-based soup like this, you’ll be ready to throw it in. Not only does the sharp, cheesy taste melt into the broth, but the rind itself becomes soft and gooey and oozy and completely groan-inducing. It is also the privilege of the cook to have first dibs on that treat!
Ciao for now, yall. And remember to slow down and enjoy some food cooked with love (even if the love is from yourself, especially if the love is from yourself).