When I spent time at our mission house in Italy, I fell in love with fennel. For many, this might be a vegetable you see in the grocery store and have absolutely no idea what you would do with it. It is an underutilized vegetable and during the doldrums of winter, it might just become your new favorite. It looks a bit like it might be a member of the celery family or some sort of cabbage, but instead, it’s a flowering plant of the carrot family. The flavor is subtle, slightly sweet and has hints of anise, but don’t worry, you won’t be eating a Twizzler when it is cooked correctly. It can be eaten raw – thinly sliced in a salad or slaw or carmelized and used in a soup or stew. In this simple recipe, we’ll show you how to take this lovely vegetable and transform it into a velvety and flavorful side dish.
- Cut each fennel half into 3 wedges. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fennel; cook 7 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.
- Add wine, stock, salt, pepper, minced garlic and thyme sprigs; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Increase heat to medium-high; cook, uncovered, 1 minute or until liquid is slightly thickened. Remove thyme sprigs from pan; discard.
- Melt remaining 1 Tbsp.butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat; stir in parsley and cheese. Arrange fennel wedges on a plate and sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture.
Current surveys show that Italian food still ranks highest in popularity on restaurant menus across the country. With so many other ethnic foods gaining interest in the food world this surprised me a little when I recently found it out. I know it is true in our convent (that’s why we have Italian night on Friday of every week) but didn’t expect it was on such a large scale. This being the case let’s consider some more Italian versions of favorite meals and perhaps something other than provincial tomato sauce dishes that usually come to mind when we think of Italian cooking.
This week I experimented with chicken using some very typical Italian ingredients with the exclusion of tomatoes. I came up with a beautiful and flavorful Italian chicken featuring citrus fruit as well as figs, olives, garlic and herbs and seasonings all native to Italy.
Roasted Chicken with Citrus, Herbs and Olives
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large roasting pan, season chicken with salt and pepper; drizzle with oil. Squeeze lemon and orange over chicken, then add fruit to pan. Add wine, orange juice, and thyme or oregano. Roast 25 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven; rotate chicken pieces if browning unevenly. Add olives and whole garlic cloves. Roast until a thermometer inserted in chicken breast (avoiding bone) registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit, about 15 minutes more.
- Transfer chicken and citrus to a platter.
- Place roasting pan over high heat, until sauce is reduced and thickened, about 3 minutes. Pour over chicken; serve.
We have just entered Advent, celebrated Thanksgiving, and are now headed into the holiday season with all our favorite foods ahead of us. So we want to keep our menus tasty but also healthy without including too many rich heavy dishes at this time.
Fish is perfect for right now. Not only because of its nutritional value but also because it’s so convenient, fast and easy to cook during these busy days when time is at premium. Here at the convent we include fish weekly in our meal planning and prepared in this Mediterranean way it appeals to many. We often serve it with fresh kale which is still growing in our garden and continues to provide us with many healthy benefits through the winter months.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, red pepper, celery and anchovies. Cook stirring often, until lightly browned.
- Add wine and garlic and simmer for 30 seconds. Stir in olives, oregano and lemon zest.
- Season with 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and capers. Season fish with the remaining salt and pepper.
- Arrange the fish in a single layer in a pie pan or baking dish. Spoon the vegetable mixture over the fish and give a light sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Bake uncovered, until the fish is just cooked through, 10 to 20 minutes.
- Divide the fish into 2 portions and top with vegetables and their juices.