Fennel Fanatics

 

Everything you need to know about fennel | Dear MartiniBack in our days teaching at Draeger’s Cooking School, we bonded over our love for fennel.  We used to joke that one day we would create a cooking class entitled, “I Love Fennel.”  It was a silly idea, but it was certainly a class we would take ourselves.

Fennel bulb top shot Dear MartiniWhy do we love fennel so much?  It’s versatile, available year round (we are so lucky to live in California), and it goes well with the California/Mediterranean style of cuisine we enjoy. We roast fennel with meats, shave it for salads, braise it or cook it in soups, and even throw it on the grill.  It’s sweet, licorice flavor is subtle enough to compliment pork, chicken and fish and goes beautifully into hearty dishes like ratatouille, our Thanksgiving stuffing, or a comforting soup.  When raw, it’s crunchy texture lends well to slaws and salads; in fact, one of our favorite salads of all is a simple combination of shaved fennel, shredded carrot and dried cranberries.

If you are new to fennel, we suggest you start off with this delicious soup.  It’s a hearty soup perfect for cooler months and we hope will inspire you to add fennel to your other favorite recipes.

Be sure to click on the blue links to watch our bite-sized technique videos.  And let us know what you think!

bean soup

Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup

Serves 4 to 6

 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ yellow onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

½ bulb fennel, cored and diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 15-ounce can white beans (or cannellini beans), drained and rinsed

3 cups chicken stock, or vegetable stock

1 Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind (optional)

3 cups (1 bunch) Tuscan Kale, chopped

2 tablespoons shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish

In a medium-sized soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium flame and add the onion, carrot, celery, fennel and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper and toss around to coat with oil.  Cover and let the vegetable become soft and tender, but not browned, for about 7 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Uncover and add the pepper flakes and beans and toss to coat.  Cook until the beans are hot, about 2 more minutes.  Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat to simmer and add the Parmigiano rind, if using.  Simmer for 15 minutes, covered.  Uncover and add the kale. Stir to combine the ingredients and simmer, covered, for another 8 minutes, or until the kale is soft and tender.  Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Ladle into warmed soup bowls, top with cheese and serve hot.

Fennel_Bulb_Dear_Martini

 

Colcannon and Champ

Colcannon  and Champ:   Sounds like the name of a rock band or a law firm?  Think again!

Colcannon Recipe | Dear MartiniColcannon is a rustic country dish of potatoes, cabbage (or kale), green onions and sometimes leeks.  If you make the same mash using only potatoes and green onions then you have champ. In many Irish recipes white cabbage is always used, but we’ve substituted the white cabbage with Savoy cabbage because it is our favorite (And when you cook at your house you get choose your favorites too!).  The two things you cannot substitute are the butter and cream.  Of course, you can vary the amounts to make the dish lighter to your preferred tastes, but please:  always use the highest quality unsalted butter you can find… and the best cream available.

Simple and fresh ingredients are the key.

Simple and fresh ingredients are the key.

We were inspired to post this video and recipe after reading our dear friend Michael’s blog on colcannon.  We hope our version meets his standards!

As always, we bring these recipes to our blog with bite-sized technique videos you can find on our YouTube channel. Please click the ingredients in blue to see the videos!

Colcannon – Irish Mashed Potatoes and Cabbage

Serves 4 to 6

4 to 5 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 stick unsalted butter

3 cups shredded Savoy cabbage (about 1/2 a head), white cabbage or kale

1 medium leek, white and light green parts thinly sliced

3 green onions, minced

1 cup heavy whipping cream

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put potatoes in a pot large enough to hold them no more than 2 potatoes deep.  Cover the potatoes with at least an inch of cold water.  Add the salt, and bring just to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer.   Simmer potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes.

In a separate pan over medium-high heat melt 3 tablespoons butter and add the leeks.  Sauté leeks until they are tender, about 3 minutes.  Add the cabbage and sauté until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in the green onions and sauté 1 minute more.  Stir in the heavy cream and remove pan from the heat.  Set aside.

Drain potatoes in a colander.  Shake the colander to make sure the water has completely drained out. Return the potatoes to the hot pot and allow them to completely dry.  Potatoes will look crumbly and white around the edges.

Add the cream and cabbage mixture to the potatoes and mash with a potato masher until thick and creamy.  Season colcannon with salt and pepper.  Serve with a knob of butter melted in the center of your piping hot potatoes.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

How to Make Colcannon with Dear Martini

The Classic Caesar Salad

Classic Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons. Dear Martini

All Hail Caesar salad!  Most people agree the Caesar salad was invented by Caesar Cardini in his Tijuana restaurant, opened during the 1920s to circumvent Prohibition laws.   The Hollywood in crowd appreciated Cardini’s flare for the dramatic.  Cardini himself would prepare the salad table side with a flourish.   The Caesar salad soon became a national and international hit!

Anchovies, or no anchovies?

How to Make Anchovy Paste for Caesar Salads or Pasta Sauces.  Dear MartiniThe great debate rages on:  anchovies or no anchovies?  Many cooks and food experts debate about whether or not to include anchovies in Caesar Salad. Some critics say the original Cardini recipe did not include anchovies, but instead used Worcheshire sauce, which also contains anchovies. However, others believe that the best Caesar salad include anchovies, and it’s just not a Caesar  without them!  We believe the secret is not to add too many anchovies.  The anchovies give the salad a nice subtle savory note and we promise, our recipe is not the least bit fishy.

Classic Caesar Salad in a Wooden Salad Bowl.  Dear Martini

How to Enjoy Caesar Salad

If you’re having a party, you can serve the salad on a large platter, or prepare and serve it out of a large wooden bowl, just like Caesar Cardini did in his restaurants. But if you want to try something fun, make it portable for a picnic by serving it in individual mason jars.   Enjoy the salad by itself, or add  chicken or salmon for extra protein.  Caesar salad is a great option for lunch or dinner or as Chef Terri prefers for brunch– preferably with a Blood Mary cocktail!

 

Classic Caesar Salad

Serves 6 to 8

3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

2 anchovy fillets, smashed

Pinch kosher salt

2 large egg yolks, coddled (see below)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Dash Worcestershire sauce

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large head Romaine lettuce, washed and spun dry

¾ cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese

2 cups fresh croutons, recipe follows

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

In a large salad bowl, add the smashed garlic cloves and anchovy fillets.  Using two forks, smash and rub the cloves and anchovies with a pinch of salt to create a paste.  Add the yolks one by one and whisk to combine with the garlic.  Add the lemon juice and Worcestershire, whisking to combine.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil while whisking constantly to create an emulsion.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Tear the romaine lettuce leaves into bite-sized chunks directly into the bowl with the dressing.  Toss together with Parmesan cheese and croutons.  Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and serve immediately.

* to coddle the eggs, place the eggs in a small saucepan.  Cover with water and heat to just before simmering.  Use immediately.  Note:  Consuming raw or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.  Make sure your eggs are fresh and stored in the refrigerator.  Coddling the eggs will eliminate any bacteria that may be present on the surface of the shell, but will not completely render the egg yolk 100% safe.

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Baked Croutons

Makes approximately 2 cups

½ loaf country bread, such as ciabatta, pulgiese or batard, crusts trimmed and cut into ½-inch cubes

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the bread cubes together with the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread the bread cubes in one even layer on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Bake in the pre-heated oven until golden brown, about 9 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow the croutons to cool.

Classic Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons and Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Dear Martini

How do YOU like to enjoy your Casear Salad?  Let us know on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DearMartiniCooking

Panzanella Salad – Heirloom Tomato and Bread Salad

Ripe heirloom tomatoes make the best panzanella salad

Welcome to Tuscany!  Panzanella is a traditional Tuscan salad usually consisting mainly of stale bread and tomatoes.  We know it may seem strange to use stale bread, but this dish ingeniously takes advantage of rock-hard-day-old-bread, turning it into a tasty treat.  It’s also a great way to enjoy fresh vegetables – especially heirloom tomatoes which are abundant during the late summer months.

A variety of heirloom tomatoes and rustic loaf croutons make the best panzanella salad

For the bread, panzanella is made with a country-style loaf, like that found in Tuscany. Any rustic Italian loaf of bread from pugliese to ciabatta or even a French sweet baguette or batard (heresy!) will do as long as it’s at least one day old.   While the Tuscans claim it, you will find many variations of panzanella throughout central Italy with varying ingredients according to the region.   Every cook has her version of it. We prefer to toast the bread before letting it soak in the vinaigrette, giving the bread a little more flavor and texture.   If the last weeks of summer are still too hot to fire up the oven, consider leaving the bread out to dry in the sun for a couple of hours.  It’s a lovely entrée salad that requires no cooking!

Heirloom Tomato Basket

When choosing tomatoes, heirloom or otherwise, pick tomatoes that have vibrant color and are a bit soft.  Large, firm, heavy tomatoes tend to have lots of water in them and therefore lack intense tomato flavors.  Dry farmed or older, softer tomatoes tend to have less water and more flavor.

With the best of summer ingredients, hearty bread, and homemade vinaigrette,  panzanella is a delicious way to celebrate late-summer flavors!  Watch our short little video on how we made panzanella right on our front lawn… and while you’re at it, hit the hotlinks we’ve given you in the recipe below to watch our other cooking technique videos!

Panzanella – Heirloom Tomato and Bread Salad

Serves 6 to 8

Break out your best extra virgin olive oil to really make all of the simple flavors in this dish shine!

1 day-old rustic loaf , cut into 1-inch cubes

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 small shallot, minced

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced, diced and or cut into wedges

1/2 cup ripe cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise

½ bunch basil leaves, torn into pieces

½ red onion, lyonnaise

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Make the croutons by arranging the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and lightly toast the bread in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and half a pinch of ground black pepper.  Set aside to cool.

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the garlic, shallot, vinegar, olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Screw the lid on tightly and shake vigorously to combine.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the dressing together with the bread, tomatoes, basil and red onions.  Refrigerate the salad for 20 minutes for the flavors to develop.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Want to get creative?  While not traditional, try adding any one (or all ) of these ingredients:

Panzanella Salad is a delicious idea for dinner when it's too darn hot to turn on the stove!

Guest Blog: Pasta alla Puttanesca

If ever there was a quick and easy pasta dish to make for dinner, this is it! Many thanks to Pat, whose blog, Rantings of an Amateur Chef so graciously published Chef Terri’s recipe and photos! We had a great time making this dish for Pat’s blog!

Rantings of an Amateur Chef

Once again we have guest blogger Terri from Dear Martini. I love that she creates videos on certain cooking steps to help readers through. Take a look at the great recipe below and make sure you spend some time over at Dear Martini

Pasta a la Puttanesca is literally named “pasta in the style of a whore.”  Why it’s called the pasta for puttanas, I’ll leave it up to your imagination; however, I choose to ignore its impolite connotations and keep all of the ingredients for this dish at my fingertips in my pantry at all times.  The important ingredients for this sauce are crushed tomatoes, olives, red pepper flakes, shallots or onions, garlic and olive oil.  For the piquant briny/salty notes, you can add anchovy paste or chopped capers (if you wish to make it vegetarian).

This recipe falls under my personal category:  PVD (“preparazione veloce e delicioza”…

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Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup

We love hearty, delicious soups in the wintertime. :) Kudos to our Chef Terri for her guest post on Rantings of an Amateur Chef!

Rantings of an Amateur Chef

Today we have a great post from Terri from Dear Martini. Like Terri, I love a good hot soup on a cold winter’s day. Check out Dear Martini and Terri’s post below…

In the post-Holiday winter months, my food choices always lean towards soups that are hearty, nutritious, comforting and budget-friendly.  It might be due to the over-indulgence of food and wallet over the Christmas holidays; but regardless, it’s a great time to make soups to warm both the house and soul.

I stock my kitchen pantry with a variety of items that I can put together for a soup at a moment’s notice:  canned beans, canned tomatoes, frozen stocks, dried pastas and grains. During times when I have more vegetables languishing in the produce drawer than I have time to cook them, I dice them up and keep them in freezer bags.  That way, I’ve got pre-chopped veggies…

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The Plentiful Pumpkin

The Vegetarian Thanksgiving —  it’s a topic that’s coming up more often now.  Years ago, if a vegetarian came to Thanksgiving dinner, all he or she could hope for was to enjoy some of the meatless side dishes, salads and of course pumpkin pie.  In more recent years, folks are becoming more health-conscious and in general adopting a meat-free lifestyle.  A happy consequence:  dinner hosts are also becoming more conscientious and planning for more meatless options for the Thanksgiving Table.

I originally developed this for my sister, Alex.  I wanted to make something unforgettably special for her that was filling, delicious and healthy… something that would be so special, she wouldn’t miss having turkey at all.

As I heartily encourage you to make this recipe, I am obligated to warn you:  it’s not something that can be quickly thrown together.  This recipe is for a very special occasion, so please take the necessary time and steps to prepare.  Cook and season each component before it gets mixed together as the filling – by doing so, each component has its own flavor.  The whole thing will become greater than the sum of its parts!  (and consequently, that’s why it’s so darn complicated to make this dish).

I serve this pumpkin with onion gravy (it looks and tastes like turkey gravy but it’s vegan) and a side of cranberry sauce!

* Be sure to click on the blue links to see all the helpful videos we’ve prepared to guide you along!  Subscribe to our YouTube Channel!  

Stuffed Thanksgiving Pumpkin

Serves 4

4 sugar pumpkins, about 6 to 8-inches in diameter

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups cooked Israeli couscous (or wild rice)

1 cup cooked quinoa (red looks better)

1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Sub-recipes:

Sautéed Dino Kale w chopped garlic and red pepper flakes

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with shallots and garlic (thinly slice the shallots and garlic)

Sautéed chickpeas with diced carrots, minced garlic and olive oil (optional)

Roast the pumpkins by first cutting their tops off and scooping out their seeds and strings.  Prick all over the inside of the pumpkins with a fork and brush with olive oil.  Season the insides with salt and pepper.  Place the pumpkins cut-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 35 min at 350.  Remove and set aside to cool.

Prepare the filling:  In a large bowl mix together the cooked couscous, quinoa, cranberries, nuts, parsley and any of the prepared sub-recipe components (mix 1 – 1 ½ cups of each component).  Season with salt and pepper and moisten with vegetable stock.

Stuff each pumpkin with the filling – making sure you’ve firmly (but not compressed) packed it in.  Make sure it comes over the top.  Return the stuffed pumpkins to the foil-lined baking sheet and bake until heated through, about 45 minutes.  You can roast the tops of the pumpkins, too and place on top for presentation.  Bake any leftover filling in a baking dish to serve along side.

Serve hot with lots of onion gravy and cranberry sauce.

Onion gravy:

Makes 2 ½ cups

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

One large yellow onion, diced 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups water

2 tablespoons Tamari sauce (or low-sodium soy sauce)

1 vegetable boullion cube

2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed w cold water to create a slurry

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high flame and sauté the onions until soft, about 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the water, tamari, and boullion cube.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the onion is clear.  Mix together the cornstarch slurry and pour in.  Bring to a boil, stir a few times until the gravy thickens and turn off the heat.  Set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly, then puree with a stick blender.  If you are using a traditional blender, cool the gravy down completely before blending (you’ll have to heat the gravy back up).  Strain the gravy into a clean saucepan, taste and season with salt and pepper if needed and keep warm until ready to use.

Happy Thanksgiving!