Wednesday, June 27, 2018

June 28, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Fennel

Cooking With This Week’s Box: 

This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:

Green Scallions OR Green Top Purple Cipollini Onions:  Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger;  Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below)

Italian and/or Green Zucchini:  Zucchini Cornbread;  Sour Cream Zucchini Bread;  Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below)

Sweet Baby Broccoli:  Green ShakshukaCold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger;  Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below)

Rainbow Chard:  Green Shakshuka  

Sugar Snap or Snow Peas:  Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger

FennelRoasted Fennel & White Bean Dip;  Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below)

Here we are in the last week of June!  Strawberry season is winding down which means garlic harvest is right around the corner!  We’re looking forward to attending the annual Garlic Harvest dinner at Harvest Restaurant in Madison on July 15.  Tami Lax hosts this dinner every year to help us celebrate the garlic harvest.  While we wait for this year’s garlic crop to come in, we have plenty of other vegetables to keep us occupied in the kitchen!

Roasted Fennel & White Bean Dip
Photo from food52
Lets start with this week’s featured vegetable, fennel!  I’ve included two recipes for you to try this week.  The first recipe, Roasted Fennel & White Bean Dip came to me with a strong recommendation from our friend Sarah.  This recipe suggests serving it with toasted bread, but I’m going to take it beyond an appetizer and turn it into dinner.  Serve this dip with a big platter of toasted bread, olives, some slices of salami and fresh vegetables such as sliced kohlrabi, cucumbers and lettuce leaves.  Take it out on the patio with a glass of wine and some good company and enjoy.  The other recipe utilizing this week’s featured fennel is my recipe for Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below) I actually created this recipe with inspiration from a recipe for stuffed shells that was shared in our Facebook group last year. I didn’t have the patience to stuff shells, so I created my own version of a lasagna-like dish.  Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients.  It actually is pretty easy to make and assemble and it will serve a small army!  If you are a smaller household, you may want to cut the recipe in half and assemble the casserole in a 8 x 8—inch baking dish.

Zucchini Cornbread, photo from brown eyed baker
This week’s romaine lettuce is a classic choice for a Traditional Caesar Salad or change it up a little and try this recipe for Grilled Romaine Lettuce which features a Caesar like dressing that is painted onto the crisp romaine and put on the grill to add a little smoky, charred depth of flavor.  Add some chicken to the grill to accompany the Grilled Romaine Lettuce and make a loaf of Zucchini Cornbread to complete the meal!  This cornbread recipe was shared by a member in our Facebook Group last week.  If you have some extra zucchini this week, check out this recipe for Sour Cream Zucchini Bread.  It’ll make a tasty desert or eat it for breakfast!

Green Shakshuka, picture from epicurious
There was a lot of good cooking and recipe-sharing happening in the Facebook Group last week, including this delicious recipe for Green Shakshuka.  I’ve made a tomato based version of this dish, but this green version sounds and looks delicious and is a good way to use a lot of greens!  You make a mix of wilted greens as the base, add some herbs and spices and then crack eggs on top and let it all come to the finish line together!  This is a great dish to make for brunch, but it can also serve as dinner.  You know I love any dish that includes eggs and this is no exception.  Use the chard in this week’s box along with the greens from your broccoli and kohlrabi.

I found this recipe for Middle Eastern Chicken Burgers with a Yogurt Cucumber Sauce and will prepare these for dinner served along with spicy Kohlrabi Fries.  

Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger
Picture from smitten kitchen
If you have any cucumber left over, add it to this recipe for Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger.  This is a simple dish made with buckwheat noodles dressed with a simple sauce based on miso and ginger.  It calls for “a mixture of raw vegetables of your choice” which means this recipe can easily be adapted to include whatever you have in your fridge at the time.  This will make a great salad to enjoy for a quick, yet nourishing lunch.  I’m going to use cucumbers, kohlrabi, sugar snap or snow peas and my green onion tops to make this this week.  You could also use some of the broccoli and zucchini if you like.  The trick is to keep it simple and seasonal. 

Finally, lets celebrate this year’s strawberry season with  Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce.  Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day and pancakes are one of my favorite foods.  Top them off with fresh strawberries and life is pretty good. 

And on that note I’m going to sign off.  Have an awesome week!---Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Fennel 

When I was in culinary school I worked as a cook at a restaurant called Mojo Grill.  One of the signature appetizers on the menu was a classy dish of bacon-wrapped scallops served with fennel and a delicious Sambuca cream sauce.  I was pretty excited when I was granted permission to prepare this dish, and even made it for a restaurant critic one night!  After cooking the scallops until they were nicely browned and the bacon was crispy, I’d remove them from the pan, add several pieces of fresh fennel and then get ready for the excitement.  With a bottle of Sambuca (an Italian anise-flavored liqueur)  in one hand and my other hand on the handle of the pan, I’d pour some of the liqueur into the pan and  announce “STAND BACK” as I tipped the pan away from me and watched the alcohol shoot up in flames!  It was meant to be an impressive display for diners to watch as they peered into our open kitchen.  (Do not try this at home.)  Once the flames burned off I reduced the heat, added some heavy cream to the pan and let the sauce cook down a little bit until it was thick, creamy and fragrant and the fennel was tender.  I will never forget the perfect way all the components of this dish came together with fennel as the star of the show.  I believe it was this dish that gave me a new respect and appreciation for this unique vegetable.

Fennel growing in the field
Fennel can be easily identified by its feathery tops and distinct aroma.  It has the flavor of anise, or mild licorice, which some people love and others are still learning to like.  If you are in the latter group, please keep an open mind about fennel and read on.  Fennel is not a root vegetable, it actually grows above the ground and the feathery tops create a magical, cloud-like appearance in the field that makes you want to walk down the row while running your hands over the tops just to feel the softness and encourage the sweet aroma to fill the space around you.  Yes, it’s magical.  Nearly all of the fennel plant is edible and is comprised of three main parts.  The white bulb at the base of the plant is the most commonly used part.  The soft, fine, feathery green portion extending off the stalks is called “fronds.” The fronds are also edible and can be used more as an herb, seasoning or garnish.  The stalks are sometimes too fibrous to eat, however they have a lot of flavor so don’t discard them!
Pasta with Golden Fennel
Fennel is often found in Italian cuisine, but it is also included in some classical French dishes and may also be found in the cuisine of different parts of Asia.  It may be eaten both raw and cooked.  In its raw form, you’ll find it to be crunchy and refreshing with a stronger anise flavor.  It’s super important, when eating fennel raw, to slice it paper thin.  It’s a very dense vegetable, so it’s a little hard to chomp down on a big, thick slice of it with enjoyment.  The flavor, texture and overall eating experience is greatly enhanced by simply slicing it very thinly with either a mandolin or just a sharp knife.  In its raw form it’s often used in vegetable and grain salads and can be pickled.  Fennel may also be cooked and can be roasted, sautéed, stir-fried, simmered in soups and stews and makes a delicious, flavorful gratin.  When cooked, the flavor of fennel mellows and is much more subtle.  This allows it to fade from the front, in-your-face position to a much more discreet presence as a background flavor that rounds out a dish.  For those of you who are still learning to like fennel, I’d encourage you to use it in a recipe where it will be cooked in some way.  This recipe for Pasta with Golden Fennel has proven to be a winner many times over the past few years with members who didn’t really care for fennel.  It’s also the only fennel dish the entire crew would eat when I was cooking for the crew my first summer on the farm!

Fennel pairs well with a wide variety of foods including seafood, poultry, pork and cured meats such as salami and sopressata.  It also works well with cream as well as fresh and hard cheese such as feta and Parmesan.  Recipes featuring fennel will often include white wine, honey, lemons and other citrus fruit and/or vegetables such as tomatoes, celery, carrots, cucumbers as well as beets, dried beans and herbs including parsley, dill and basil.  In addition to citrus fruit, fennel also pairs well with pomegranates, berries, apples and stone fruit. 

Cucumber-Fennel Fizz
Photo from food52
Fennel should be stored in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in plastic to keep it fresh and crisp.  If you are using the fennel bulb, first peel off the outer layer of the bulb to wash away dirt that may be between the layers.  The outer layer is still usable after it is washed so don’t throw it away.  Cut the bulb in half and make a V-shaped cut into the core at the base of the fennel bulb.  Remove most of the core, then slice thinly or cut as desired. The bulb is crisp, sweet and can be eaten raw or cooked.  If you enjoy the fresh anise flavor of fennel, you will likely enjoy eating fennel in salads and other raw or lightly cooked preparations.  If you are eating it raw, don’t forget to slice it paper-thin.  The feathery fronds can be chopped finely or just tear up little tufts of them and add them to fresh salads, use them as a garnish for pasta or rice dishes, blend them into sauces, soups or vinaigrette, or even use them in a drink such as this recipe for Blended Lemonade with Ginger & Fennel or Cucumber-Fennel Fizz.  The stalks are more fibrous, so generally are not eaten, however don’t throw them away.  They have a lot of flavor in them!  Put them in a roasting pan underneath a pork roast or whole chicken and the flavor and aroma of the fennel will permeate the meat as it roasts and it will add a nice background flavor to the pan sauce you make from the drippings.  If you’re making a seafood or potato chowder, add the stalks to the pot to flavor the broth or creamy base and just remove them before serving.  They also add a nice background flavor to something as simple as vegetable stock. 

On our farm, we only plant two crops of fennel in the spring for harvest in late June/early July.  So now is the time to embrace this vegetable and give it a try.  In addition to the recipes included with our vegetable shares this week, I’ve also included two recipes including fennel in our fruit newsletter!  Of course you can always search for more recipes on our website that have been featured in previous newsletters.  Have fun and enjoy this unique vegetable!

Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole 

Yield:  8 servings

12 oz fusilli or penne pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup onions, chopped finely
2 Tbsp garlic, chopped finely
1 cup fennel, small dice
1 cup broccoli or kohlrabi, small dice or florets
1 ½ cups zucchini, small dice
1 cup greens, thinly sliced (chard, kale, etc)
1 ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 oz ground beef, browned
16 oz cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup chopped fresh herbs of your choice (basil, parsley, oregano, etc)
Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
4 cups tomato sauce
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup red wine
¾ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

  1. First, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until it is about ⅔ cooked.  You want it to be undercooked when you add it to the casserole as it will soak up some of the moisture in the casserole and continue to cook and soften while baking.  Once the pasta is ⅔ cooked, drain the pasta into a colander, discarding the cooking liquid.  Set the pasta aside.
  3. In a medium sized sautè pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion and garlic and sautè for 1-2 minutes or until tender and fragrant.  Next add the fennel and broccoli and sautè for another 3-4 minutes before adding the zucchini.  Season the vegetable mixture with 1 tsp of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the greens.  Cook the vegetables about half way and then remove them from the heat so they don’t become overcooked!  They’ll continue cooking in the casserole so you want them to be a little undercooked when you remove them from the heat.
  4. While the vegetables are cooking, mix the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl:  ground beef, cottage cheese, egg, fresh herbs and red pepper flakes.  Once the vegetables are finished, add them to the mixture.  Taste a little bit and add more salt if necessary, then stir in the pasta.  Set aside.
  5. Heat the tomato sauce in a pan over medium heat.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar, red wine and ½ teaspoon salt.  Stir to combine and bring the sauce to a simmer.  Once the sauce is heated through, remove from the heat and taste a little bit. Add more salt or pepper if necessary.
  6. Put a thin layer of the hot tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Spread the vegetable mixture over the top, and then pour the remainder of the sauce over the entire dish being sure to evenly cover the vegetable mixture.
  7. Bake the casserole in the oven, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes or until the tomato sauce is bubbling a little bit.  After 25-30 minutes, remove the casserole from the oven and spread the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top.  Put it back in the oven and bake it for another 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is fully melted.
  8. Remove from the oven and serve hot.
Recipe created by:  Chef Andrea Yoder
Note:  You can vary the vegetables you include in this casserole according to what you have available as long as you have about 3 ½ cups of diced vegetables and about 1 cup of greens.

Roasted Fennel & White Bean Dip 

Serves 12 as an appetizer

For Roasted Fennel: 
1 large or 2 small Fennel Bulbs, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces 
2-3 Tbsp olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, still in papery shell 
1 pinch salt and pepper (more to taste) 

For the Cannellini Bean puree: 
¾ cups olive oil 
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced 
2 ½ cups cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped 
1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed 
½  cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated 
1 baguette, sliced 
  1. First make the roasted fennel. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Toss the fennel and garlic cloves in the olive oil and spread on a sheet pan. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes, turning twice during cooking. Take out and let cool. When cool squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins. 
  2. Start the cannellini bean puree. In a small frying pan heat ½ cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook until lightly golden, add rosemary and cannellini beans and cook for one minute more. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Take it off the heat. 
  3. In a food processor combine the garlic bean mixture, fennel, roasted garlic, lemon juice, remaining ¼ cup olive oil and all but 3 Tbsp of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Puree until smooth. 
  4. Raise oven temp to 450°F. Transfer puree into a small baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Feel free to add more. If your dish is near full, place it on a baking sheet, in case it bubbles over in the oven. Bake until cheese is golden on top, about 15-20 minutes. Serve with crostini.

NOTE:  This recipe was borrowed from  Serve this dip with bread as suggested, or serve it with fresh vegetables, olives, cured meats.  You could enjoy this as an appetizer, or eat it as dinner!

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