Spring is here – finally! I feel like a bear waking up from hibernation. Look! my last post was in October right before not-so-cold winter. And now while everything is blooming I am awake as well. Altough my wife would argue with me being a gorilla rather than a grizzly bear but that’s for another post.
While observing what’s new with the world I couldn’t miss all the new produce filling up the shelves in the stores. Enjoying the colors and the smells of all the goodies in the market, one booth made me actually stop a bit longer than others. I couldn’t hold myself and had to grab a bulb and inhale the deep aromatic scent of a Fennel. This large bulb had the leaves on which look very similar to dill. Inhaled again… smell of the Mediterranean!
In ancient Greece Fennel was called Marathon which was the name of the town Marathon; same Marathon from the famous battle of Marathon where a Greek soldier was sent, running, to Athens announcing the defeat of Persians in the battle. Fennel field was the place of the battle. Ancient Greeks believed that Fennels are good for protection and good luck. Romans ate fennel to control obesity. In medieval times fennel was used to keep away the ghosts and evil spirits.
The crisp fennel can be sauteed, stewed, braised, grilled, roasted or eaten raw. For a quick treat you can cut a fennel bulb in rings, add juice of a fresh lemon, extra virgin olive oil, rock salt and black pepper; toss it altogeter and serve it chilled. It will make a great refreshing apetizer.
Here is a recipe for roasted fennels; they are great as side dish for fish or a light meal for hot summer days.
Herb Roasted Fennel Bulbs
- 2 large Fennel bulbs
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1-2 garlic, minced
- 1-2 red hot chiles, stems and seeds removed, minced (optional)
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
- coarse salt
- A dash of freshly grated black pepper
1 Cut fennels in half. Remove the outer leaves and cut the stems.
2 Preheat oven to 350° Place fennels on baking tray, cut side up. Spread olive oil evenly all over the fennels. Add garlic, chillies, thyme, salt and pepper.
3 Bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the fennels.
TIP: Sprinkle some water over the fennels during cooking in order to keep them moist; every 10 minutes will be fine.
NOTE: You can add any fresh herb you like instead of or together with thyme such as oregano, sage etc…
Try this dish with a very well chilled crisp Rose wine; if Rose is not your cup of wine then a nice Chenin Blanc will do that as well.
Filed under Vegetables, Wine
Strong! Intense! Addictive! …Gives you a smile of an instant satisfaction and makes you look at the world through pink glasses. Am I talking about love? Well , not today!
Anchovy – one of the true wonders of the sea. It enriches everything that comes in contact with; fresh lettuce salad and anchovy dressing, a fake putanesca spaghetti with anchovies and spicy tomatoes ….heaven!
I think way too many Americans don’t give enough respect to the Anchovies. They either find them too salty, or too fish or not so eastetic on the plate. well, that’s true. Mostly anchovies are available in jars, tubes or cans which naturally come salty.
I could write a whole web site about anchovies and uses but today I’ll focus only about fresh caught anchovies, that you can eat raw. Depending on the region you live it might be difficult to find fresh caught anchovies but if you have an access to a fish market or a friendly fishmonger, you can ask to put aside some fresh anchovies when they’re available.
Try the following for an unforgetable taste of ocean (NOTE – it is very important that the fish is same day caught, not frozen and defrosted, and all other ingredients are of highest quality) :
FRESH ANCHOVY TAPAS
1 pound super fresh anchovies
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
High quality rock salt or kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Toasted baguette or Italian bread
- Clean anchovies well, keeping them whole.
- Dry them completely and place them next to each other (like soldiers) on a shallow non-reactive, glass dish. One layer only – make sure they’re next to each other and not on top.
- Fresh anchovies
- Sprinkle rock salt (or kosher salt) on that will cover the whole fish. Don’t be afraid of the amount of salt, you won’t eat it.
- Cover the fish and refrigerate for 6 hours.
- After the first 3 hours turn all fish over, discard water if there is any, and put more salt.
- Cover again and let it sit in the refrigerator for the rest 3 hours .
- After 6 hours take the fish out and wash thoroughly under running cold water cleaning all the salt. Take a large bowl ad fill it with cold water and ice cubes. Take a fish and carefully pull the head, then pull it towards the belly; that will allow the head come out with all the attached bones. Turn fish over and gently remove the skin and any leftover bones. Now you have a clean fillet – put it straight to the bowl with cold water and ice. Cold water will take all salt away.
- Once you cleaned all the anchovies, rinse them again under running cold water and dry them completely. Place the anchovy fillets on a serving plate, pour over extra virgin olive oil, salt to taste, fresh ground black pepper, capers and finally squeeze a half lemon over the fish.
- Prepare toasted bread. Take a garlic clove cut in half and rub it on the toast. Take a tomato and cut it in half and rub it over the toast. Put a couple of anchovy fillets on the toast …….. close your eyes and imagine the dark blue depths of the ocean!
Try this dish with a well chilled Pinot Grigio or, my favorite, with a Spanish Cava.
Fresh Anchovy Tapas