This year, it seems like ALL of my friends are participating in CSA and getting weekly deliveries of gorgeous, fresh goodies. Since my schedule is so unpredictable, or perhaps because I am secretly commitment-phobic, I haven't subscribed to one, but I've been jealously eyeing all the beautiful bounty gracing my friends' homes. So I was deeply delighted when my wonderful neighbor Jackie - who subscribes to CSA through Tecolote Farm - sent me an e-mail this weekend that said simply, "I have a big organic fennel bulb to give you if you'd like it." I've never prepared fennel and had no clue what to do with it, but I knew it would be fun to experiment with, so I gratefully took her up on her offer.
When Jackie presented me with the bulb, I was a little overwhelmed. It was gorgeous, sure, with it's long, feathery green fronds, but I was a little taken aback by the size of it. I started out by attempting to photograph it, but I couldn't for the life of me get far enough away from it to fit the whole thing in the viewfinder. Here's the part of it I captured:
Pretty, isn't it?
I then spent some time poking around online looking for a recipe that was both irresistibly delicious sounding and was quick and easy, as I knew my schedule was going to be packed this week. But nothing jumped out at me. My good Midwestern upbringing (or was it my good Chinese upbringing? One of the two, or perhaps both) insisted that I not waste it, so I asked my friend the Delicious Libertine for ideas. DL can always be counted on for cooking inspiration; off the cuff, he named three different suggestions. When he got to, "dip in butter, a little flour with salt and pepper, and then fry...serve with a homemade mayo or aioli," I knew I had a winner.
So, this evening after a long walk at Ladybird Lake, I came home and fried up some fennel, whipped up some aioli, and had me a little fennel feast.
So much for eating healthy this week.
I have to say, it was darn good. The texture was a little more firm than I expected - I sort of thought it would break down and really soften and sweeten up the way an onion would, but instead it retained a fair amount of its original crispness, despite being fried for a fair while on medium to medium-high heat. I was also surprised at how little of the anise-y flavor of the fennel remained. I sort of like that flavor, so I garnished it with some of the fronds, but I think folks who aren't that fond of fennel might nevertheless appreciate this preparation.
But then, who can resist something fried and served with aioli? Certainly not me; I single-handedly wiped out this giant bulb in one fell (or is that one fennel?) swoop.