Fennel is a love it or hate it vegetable because of the intense anise flavors. But roasting the bulbous veggie helps mellow the licorice notes and turns its fibrous texture luxuriously creamy. For this roasted fennel, Cook’s Illustrated (CI) began by cutting the bulbs into wedges, which had two benefits: It provided good surface area for browning, and the attached core kept the pieces intact.
Covering the pieces with foil for most of the cooking time allowed them to steam and turn creamy; then remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of roasting so that they can turn golden and deliciously caramelized. Toss the wedges with salted water before covering them, which provides moisture for steaming and helps get seasoning between the layers.
Arranging the pieces on the long sides of a rimmed baking sheet ensures that all the pieces get equal exposure to the heat and browned evenly. However, the original recipe did not specify what size rimmed baking sheet and we used the smaller quarter sheet pan instead of a half sheet pan. Because of that, we think it took much longer for the liquid to evaporate, thus much longer for the fennel wedges to brown. In fact, we even put them under the broiler at the end for a minute or so.
The tart dressing made with orange juice and honey is the perfect complement to the sweet fennel. WOW, we practically swooned when eating it! And it was a great side dish to complement our Sear Roasted Salmon entrée, but I changed the number of servings from 4-6 to 3-4; we almost finished it off between the two of us.
CI Note: Look for fennel bulbs that measure 3½ to 4 inches in diameter and weigh around 1 pound with the stalks (12 to 14 ounces without); trim the bases very lightly so that the bulbs remain intact.
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed of stalks (but save some fronds for garnish), bases lightly trimmed
2 Tbsp. fronds chopped coarse, stalks discarded
2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
¼ tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. honey
1 ½ tsp. white wine vinegar
⅛ tsp. grated orange zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
Pinch kosher salt
FOR THE FENNEL: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Spray rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.
Cut each fennel bulb lengthwise through core into 8 wedges (do not remove core). Whisk water and salt in large bowl until salt is dissolved. Add fennel wedges to bowl and toss gently to coat. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with pepper, and toss gently to coat.
Arrange fennel wedges cut side down along 2 longer sides of prepared sheet. Drizzle any water in bowl evenly over fennel wedges. Cover sheet tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 20 minutes.
Remove the foil from the sheet and continue to roast until side of fennel touching the sheet is browned, 5 to 8 minutes longer (this may take even longer than that), rotating sheet halfway through roasting.
Flip each fennel wedge to second cut side. Continue to roast until second side is browned, 3 to 5 minutes (or more) longer. Transfer to serving dish.
FOR THE DRESSING: While fennel roasts, whisk all ingredients together in small bowl.
Whisk dressing to recombine when ready to use. Drizzle dressing over fennel, sprinkle with fennel fronds, and serve.
Spicy Grilled Pork with Fennel, Cumin and Red Onion, just the name gets my juices flowing. Imbued with spices that char at high heat, this aromatic pork recipe is a snap to throw together — exactly what you want for a night of summer grilling.
If using wooden skewers, don’t forget to soak them in water for an hour before grilling, so they don’t flare up. And, NYTimes where we got the recipe, suggested if you’re broiling and you don’t want to bother with skewers at all, just spread the pork cubes out on a rimmed sheet pan, turning them halfway through cooking with tongs or a spatula. Always good to have a Plan B for inclement weather.
Our side dish of Smashed Cucumber Salad with Peanuts, Scallions and Cilantro was just the ticket to compliment the pork and make for a low-carb dinner. The lime and heat in both recipes ensured a unity of tastes. I see making this by itself as a lunch, and would be great to bring to a picnic, potluck or dinner invitation.
While I basically stuck to the pork kebab recipe, I made a few changes in how I handled the cuke salad from Milk Street. Besides cutting the recipe in half, I left the salted cucumber slices in the colander for an hour as opposed to 15 minutes to make sure most of the moisture would be removed. And instead of several cans on the inside plate while draining the slices, I added weight by filling a smaller heavy bowl with water.
A meat mallet came in handy for both smashing the cucumbers and the roasted peanuts, but you may have another preference.
Spicy Grilled Pork with Fennel, Cumin and Red Onion
¼ cup cilantro or basil, leaves and tender stems, plus more for serving
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 jalapeño or other green chile, seeded if desired
1 tsp. honey
1 ½ tablespoons fennel seeds
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 small red onion, sliced, for serving
Season pork lightly with kosher salt and put it in a bowl or resealable bag.
Juice the lime into a blender or food processor and add cilantro, fish sauce, garlic, jalapeño and honey. Blend until the jalapeño and garlic are puréed, then add fennel, cumin, coriander seeds and pulse four or five times to bruise the spices and mix them in.
Pour mixture over the pork, tossing to coat the pieces. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes while you heat the grill, or up to 24 hours. (We marinated for 24 hours to make sure all of that great flavor permeated the pork.)
When ready to cook, heat the grill or broiler with a rack positioned 4 inches from the heat source.
Thread the pork onto skewers, leaving a little space between cubes. Grill over the highest heat possible, or broil on high, for 2 to 5 minutes, then flip the skewers and continue cooking until the meat is browned all over and charred in spots. It should be just cooked through: A little pink is OK, but there shouldn’t be any red spots.
Serve the pork with cilantro sprigs and onion slices on top, and lime wedges on the side for squeezing.
Don’t use regular cucumbers; they contain a large amount of seeds that will quickly water down the salad, even if first salted to remove excess moisture. And don’t forget to peel the cucumbers. The skins will block the salt from drawing out the maximum amount liquid of from the watery flesh.
2 Medium garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
4 Tbsp. lime juice
1½ tsp. sriracha
½ tsp. white sugar
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 English cucumbers, trimmed and peeled
½ Cup roasted unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
4 Scallions, thinly sliced
1 Serrano chili, stemmed, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
½ Cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, finely chopped
In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, ginger, lime juice, Sriracha, sugar and ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside. Place the cucumbers on a cutting board. With the flat side of a chef’s knife or a rolling pin, hit the cucumbers until they split and crack. I used a meat mallet which worked great!
Slice the cucumbers ½-inch thick on the diagonal and transfer to a large colander set over a large bowl. Add 2 teaspoons salt and toss. Top with a plate smaller than the diameter of the colander; weigh down the plate with 2 or 3 cans. Let stand until liquid has pooled in the bowl, about 15 minutes. Discard the liquid, then rinse and dry the bowl.
In the same large bowl, combine the cucumbers, peanuts, scallions, chili and cilantro. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.