Tag Archives: fennel

OLIVE OIL POACHED TUNA SALAD WITH FENNEL

Our local wine shop hosts weekly wine tastings as well as periodic wine classes that emphasize wine and food pairings. So, of course, with the wine classes there is food. One of the featured dishes at the most recent class was oil-poached tuna salad. It was delicious and refreshing. I thought I would try to copy it. I found that there were lots of recipes for oil-poached fish to be found on the internet. They all sounded good although there was a lot of variation in the instructions on how to cook the fish. There were also ingredients that didn’t appeal to me. The wine class version included cooked fennel. I thought I would opt for the refreshing crunch of raw fennel.  Otherwise, I decided to wing it with my own recipe. In any event, I was determined not to replicate the tuna salad of sandwich fame that is made with canned tuna. Probably everyone has had one of those in a brown bag lunch. There is no worry: olive oil poached tuna tastes nothing like the canned variety.

RECIPE

Olive Oil Poached Tuna Salad with Fennel

Ingredients

  • fennel bulb with stems and fronds still attached
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
  • about 3 cups olive oil (no need to use extra virgin)
  • 10 ounces ahi tuna
  • 4 tablespoons champagne vinegar, divided
  • 6 small cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced thinly
  • 5 scallions including green tops, sliced thinly on the bias
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pimento
  • ½ cup small pitted black olives drained and cut in half
  • 1 ripe avocado, ½ inch dice
  • salt and pepper
  • Romaine lettuce leaves

Method

  1. Trim the stems and fronds from the fennel bulb. Cut the stems into 1-3 inch pieces. Chop 3 tablespoons of the fronds and set aside to add to the finished salad. Slice the fennel bulb horizontally using a mandoline. Set aside the sliced fennel bulb.
  2. In a saucepan that is just large enough to hold the tuna in a single layer, combine the chopped fennel stems and fronds, garlic, and olive oil. Bring to the boil for about 5 minutes, reduce the heat to low, and add the tuna. The hot oil should cover the tuna. Turn off the heat and poach the tuna, uncovered, basting from time to time with the hot oil and turning once during the poaching. Poach for 20 minutes. Remove the tuna to a plate. Strain the oil into a small bowl.
  3. Place the quartered mushrooms in a small container that can be firmly sealed. Add 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and 6 tablespoons of the poaching oil. Cover tightly, and turn from time to time to make sure the mushrooms are well-marinated.
  4. Prepare a vinaigrette by combining the remaining vinegar and dry mustard in a small bowl or measuring cup. Slowly whisk in by drizzles 7 tablespoons of the poaching oil. Set aside for final assembly of the salad.
  5. With a sharp knife. cut the tuna into bite-sized pieces. Place in a large bowl. Add the marinated mushrooms, celery, scallions, pimento,  olives, avocado, and reserved chopped fennel fronds. Gently stir in the vinaigrette, making sure that the salad is well mixed.  Serve on Romaine lettuce leaves.
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CORZETTI WITH SAUSAGE AND CLAMS

Our daughter, Carol, has been visiting us for a few days without her family. For her it has been a relaxing time with no chauffeuring duties to swimming, school meetings, the morning school rush, and cooking. She has been doing some work from her office, but she has also found time to sleep a little late, to shop, and to eat out.

Carol has her own big library of cookbooks, but it is different from my collection, so she has spent time leafing through some of my newer acquisitions. She also enjoys working in the kitchen with Susan and me, and we enjoy that, too.  We agreed to cook together on a recipe that appealed to her. She found a recipe in Flour + Water (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 2014), the eponymous cookbook from the San Francisco restaurant owned by Thomas McNaughton, a friend of Sarah and Evan.

The recipe she chose was entitled, “Corzetti with Sausage, Clams, and Fennel”, page 186. It involved making pasta – which sounded like fun. The challenge was to re-create the corzetti. Oretta Zanini de Vita (Encyclopedia of Pasta, translated by Maureen B. Fant, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2009) describes the pasta dating back to the thirteenth century and consisting of a bit of pasta dough with two thumb indentations to resemble an “8”. That shape was apparently for commoners because by the Renaissance the pasta was often pressed with special wooden stamps that included coats of arms and other designs. These days you can buy corzetti stamps on the Internet. They are designed to cut the pasta into circles with an imprint on both sides. The little devices are often made of exotic woods and quite beautiful. Trouble is, you have to make a lot of corzetti to justify the purchase as the stamps run $60 or more.

We made do with what I had: a 1½ inch ring from my nest of pastry cutters and a wooden mold that I use for butter and springerle cookies. Carol and I wound up imprinting only one side of the pasta, but that was effort enough for two cooks. The finished pasta, though, cooked beautifully, and the sauce was delicious. It all turned out to be a perfect meal with a nice Italian red, a tossed salad, and a fresh baguette. Pistachio gelatto finished it off. This recipe should serve four generously.

Note: Fennel “pollen” is a common ingredient on the West Coast as wild fennel grows prolifically along the roadsides from south of Big Sur to north of the Bay Area. The yellow “pollen” (I think it is actually the flowers and seeds) is often foraged by chefs from the Bay Area. Ground toasted fennel seeds will make an adequate substitute.

RECIPES

Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • water

Method

  1. Heap the flour in the middle of a large, flat, clean surface. Form a well in the middle. Add the salt
  2. Add the eggs, egg yolks, and olive oil to the well, and with a fork, combine the eggs and oil, being careful not to incorporate any of the flour. When the eggs are combined, gradually pull bits of the flour into the mixture until it is completely incorporated. Sprinkle in a few drops of water if you cannot incorporate all of the flour.
  3. Draw the mixture into a ball. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and slightly shiny. Add a few more drops of water if necessary. Wrap with plastic film and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  4. When you are ready to roll out the pasta, cut the dough in fourths, working with one piece at a time and rewrapping the remaining pieces.
  5. Pat the piece of dough into a flattened, elongated piece and run it through the pasta machine rollers at the widest setting. Fold in thirds and run through the rollers once more. Repeat the process one more time. Then run the dough through the rollers, decreasing the setting by steps until you have reached the thickness you desire.  (Different machines will have different settings.) You shouldn’t need to flour the dough, but if it is too sticky, lightly dust it while you roll it out.
  6. Place the rolled dough under a clean kitchen towel while you roll out the remaining pieces of dough.
  7. With a 1½ inch circular pastry cutter, cut the sheets of pasta. Then, using a stamp of the same diameter, press firmly on each dough circle to form an imprint. Separate the imprinted circles from the remaining dough (Save that for some other use.) and let rest until you are ready to boil it.

Sausage and Clam Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds Little Neck clams
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil + more for sautéing the sausage
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups + ½ cup white wine
  • 8 ounces bulk pork sausage
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • ½ teaspoon fennel pollen (if you can’t harvest your own fennel pollen, dry-toast fennel seeds and grind finely in a spice grinder. Substitute ½ teaspoon of the ground fennel
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives
  • grated Romano cheese (optional)

Method

  1. Scrub the clams and let them stand in cold water in a colander for a few minutes to give up their sand. Drain.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a high flame. Stir in the shallot and cook until translucent. Add the sliced garlic, 2 cups of white wine, and the washed clams. Cover and cook until the clams open, about 10 minutes. Remove the clams and continue to boil the liquid until it has reduced by half. Cool the liquid completely.
  3. Remove the clams from their shells and return to the cooled liquid. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Wipe the sauté pan clean and return to high heat. Add a tablespoon or so of the olive oil. Then stir in the sausage and brown on all sides, breaking it up as you cook it. Stir in the red onion. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the fennel and minced garlic. Continue to cook until the garlic is lightly browned (Do not burn!). Add ½ cup of white wine and boil until it has almost completely evaporated.
  6. Add the chicken stock, the clams, and their cooking liquid. Bring to the simmer.

Assembly

  1. Cook the pasta by adding it to a large pot of boiling, well-salted water. Return to the boil and cook for 3 – 5 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Be careful not to overcook.
  2. Drain the pasta and add to the sausage and clam sauce. Simmer the mixture for 2 to 3 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Divide the pasta and sauce between four plates, top with parsley and chives, and serve immediately. Top with optional grated Romano cheese.

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SHAVED FENNEL AND HARICOT VERT VINAIGRETTE

Fennel is beginning to appear at the farmers market. It is unlike  that in the supermarkets. The bulbs are big, and the tops are left on so that you may have four feet of vegetable, including the fronds.

I think fennel is beautiful. The fronds are lacy and brilliant green. The bulbs have the interlocked leaf bases that remind me of a nautilus shell. The perfume is that exotic, unforgettable odor, not quite of licorice or anise, but wonderful. And it’s all edible.

When I bought my farmers market fennel, the woman behind me wondered aloud what you can do with it. The vendor said that she puts it in salads. I said, “Braise it’,” thinking of quartered bulb braised with a juicy pork chop. But you can turn both bulb and fronds into soup, a boiled vegetable, and even a desert.

The large-bulbed (not actually a bulb but the thickened ends of the stems of the fronds) variety is sometimes called Florence fennel or finocchio to distinguish it from common fennel that has no bulb and grows wild in abundance in Northern California. In the past, I’ve written about using the “pollen” from wild fennel to flavor bread, as they do at Rich Table, or to add to soups and custards.

I also bought some haricots verts from one of my favorite vendors at the market. I like his products because he has fingerling potatoes in several colors, squash blossoms, petit pan squash, and heirloom tomatoes that are not as popular with other vendors. That made me think that a fresh salad of fennel and haricot vert would be a perfect summer accompaniment to seared ahi tuna.

RECIPE

Shaved Fennel and Haricot Vert Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (Use your best stuff)
  • ½ teaspoon Pernod
  • salt and pepper
  • good pinch of sugar
  • 1 good-sized fennel bulb, trimmed and washed
  • haricots verts (about two good handfuls), trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • lettuce leaves

Method

  1. Using a dinner fork or small whisk, combine the lemon juice and mustard in a two-cup glass measuring cup
  2. Beating vigorously, gradually add the olive oil, one tablespoonful at a time, making sure it is completely incorporated.
  3. Beat in the Pernod, salt and pepper to taste, and sugar. Set aside.
  4. Using a mandolin, slice the fennel bulb into paper-thin slices.
  5. Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to the boil. Stir in the trimmed green beans and return to the boil. Boil for 3 minutes after the pot has returned to the boil. Drain and plunge the cooked beans into a bowl of ice and water that you have prepared ahead.
  6. When the beans have cooled, drain and combine with the shaved fennel. Dress with the vinaigrette, toss, and cover with plastic wrap. Reserve any remaining vinaigrette for another use.  Refrigerate for 2 hours until ready to serve on lettuce leaves.

 

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