This week's recipe features fennel, a versatile vegetable often found in Italian cuisine. Cultures around the Mediterranean have long revered this veggie for its medicinal and culinary uses, and it even made prominent appearances in Greek mythology.
In this recipe, fennel is sauteed with bacon and then roasted with tomatoes, beans, and spices for a supremely savory dish. This decadent number would be a sure hit at an Open Arms potluck.
P.S. If you're hesitating to embrace fennel because you don't care for anise flavors, have no fear -- roasting the fennel heightens its buttery, nutty flavor and curbs its anise taste.
Olive Oil Roasted Tomatoes and Fennel with White Beans
2 large fennel bulbs with fronds attached
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 slices of bacon
2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
2 pints grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
4 large fresh oregano sprigs
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 15-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney beans), drained
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 1/2 cup. Trim fennel bulbs and cut in half vertically. Cut each bulb half into 1/2-inch-wide wedges, leaving some core attached to each wedge.
3. Heat oil in large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat until very hot (about 3 minutes).
4. Add bacon and fennel wedges; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt. Cook until fennel begins to brown and soften, turning occasionally (about 10 to 12 minutes).
5. Add tomatoes, oregano, garlic, and crushed red pepper; sprinkle with black pepper and 1 teaspoon coarse salt. Fold together gently.
6. Transfer skillet to oven. Bake fennel and tomatoes until soft, stirring occasionally (about 30 minutes).
7. Mix in beans and 6 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds. Bake 5 minutes longer to heat through.
8. Transfer mixture to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with remaining chopped fronds. Serve warm or at room temperature.