I am a vegetable lover...I used to claim that the only vegetables I didn't like were brussel sprouts and fennel. Then I tried oven roasted brussel sprouts and I was a convert; now I like them roasted, shaved and sauteed ...really any way except the old fashioned steamed-till-mush method.
So fennel was my last holdout. I'm not a licorice fan and taragon is one of my least favorite spices. But I had a dish or two at a restaurant that included fennel and the taste wasn't overpoweringly anise flavored but kind of intriguely sweet and complex. So I decided to give it a try by oven roasting. Honestly, I think you can oven roast your old sneakers and they might be edilbe. Well, the long and short of it is that oven roasted fennel topped with parmesan cheese is sublime. I love it for lunch, dinner, whenever.
The following recipe is adapted from one that appeared in the Philly Inquirer. I upped the spinach and added the sausage which I bought from our local farmer's market (stay tuned for another post on these).
My favorite saugage purveyor is Maiale Deli & Salumeria (http://maialecuredmeats.com/) They have an amazing variety of sausages, from the sweet italian and other standards to duck with fig and goat cheese, wild boar with caramelized apples and blue cheese, chicken marsala and the list goes on. If you check their site, you can see they are at a number of the local farmers markets as well as having their store in Delaware. You could use any of those with this recipe, though I used the duck sausage this time and it was incredibly delicious.
Anyways, be adventurous, give this recipe a try and tell me what you think. Try the fennel...really it's amazing!
Warm White Beans with Sausage and Roasted Fennel ("almost cassoulet")
3-4 servings for those with an appetite
2 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced (don't remove much of the outer layers, just rinse well)
3 tablespoons olive oil divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt divided
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 garlic cloves minced
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or Trader Joes 4 cheese italian blend)
1 can (15.8 oz) Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 bag of baby spinach
1 pound of great sausage removed from casing
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Combine fennel, 1 T of oil, 1/2 t black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt, red pepper and garlic in a large bowl, tossing to coat the fennel. Arrange the fennel in a single layer on a jellyroll pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 450 or 12 to 15 minutes until the fennel starts to brown and caramelize. Stir, sprinkle the cheese over the fennel mixture and back for another 5 minutes or so. (At this point if you want to skip the rest of the recipe and just eat the fennel as a side for dinner or a quick lunch, you can stop here)
While the fennel is roasting, heat a large non-stick skillet, sprayed with cooking spray, over medium heat and add the sausage, cooking till done. Remove some of the excess fat if it looks too much but leave some in to cook the remaining ingredients.
Once the sausage looks cooked but not dried out, add the spinach and put a top on the skillet for a bit to cook the spinach down. Remove the top and stir until spinach is fully wilted and then add the beans and stir till heated through.
Add the fennel mixture, 1/4 t black pepper and 1/4 t salt. Cook for about 2 minutes and serve in bowls with crusty bread on the side.