Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fennel Friday

Cool and rainy weather hovered over us Friday. We had a really simple, but satisfying meal of De Cecco linguine tossed with steamed broccoli, carrots and garlic oil. I wanted to make garlic chips, but the garlic hadn't cured yet--the crew and volunteers just harvested it two days before--so it was really moist. Eli peeled and finely sliced mammoth garlic cloves from 6 heads of garlic on the mandoline finger-eating slicer. No blood.

For the chips I heat about 1/4 inch of olive oil in a deep pot to fry chips. This just turned to garlic mush, which was awfully tasty. I also made chile oil from dried red chiles. Heated the oil and dropped in the chiles. I tend to remove stems and seeds so there is less heat.

I tossed the just boiled pasta with lots of salt and the garlic oil, steamed broccoli and carrots. Since Eli prefers non-spicy hot food I left the oil on the side to spoon over the pasta. Any vegetable, grain or legume goes better with garlic and chile oils. And salt.

I also made my ubiquitous bean salad. I take this to potlucks and parties. I love it after it's had time to sit and marinate. Here's the recipe--you can make it with any legume but it's prettiest with white beans or chickpeas.

Nancy's Queen Bean Salad
It's GOOD for you.

2 cups dried beans like Great Northern or navy, washed and drained
1 large red onion, finely slivered
1/4 cup olive oil
3 to 4 tablespoons very good red wine vinegar (I favor the "live" Eden red wine vinegar available at health food stores)
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (I separate the stems and finely slice them if the parsley is fresh)
2 or more tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves (you can use dry, but use less)

Either quick soak beans with 1 tablespoon sea salt for 1 hour in boiled water or soak overnight with 1 tablespoon sea salt. (The salt will act as a bean tenderizer for those of us with hard water.) Drain and cover with cold water. Bring beans to boil, lower heat and simmer beans covered until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile sliver the onion: cut off the stem and root ends, set the onion on one flat side and cut through it in half. Peel and rinse onion. Lay it on your cutting board and slice perpendicular to cut edges, in other words, slice through an uncut edge.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until tender and transluscent, about 5 minutes. No color. Add the vinegar and season with salt. The onions will turn a lovely violet red. Remove the onions from the heat.

Drain the cooked beans and pour into a mixing bowl. Scrape in the onions, parsley and oregano. Mix and taste, seasoning with salt and freshly ground pepper and more oil or vinegar to get an attention getting sharp flavor.

For lunch I added just dug raw carrots and sugar snap peas, but this is great without any other adornments. You can add garlic to the just cooked onions if you like. I like to add loads of parsley--I think of Jenny's parsley as a green, not an herb. It wilts a bit when it hits the warm beans.

Oh, I almost forgot. There was a lot of fennel. Jenny's gotten so good at growing fennel. Last year I made a salad of it by finely slicing it on the finger-eater mandoline and tossing with lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper. So Eli and I decided to grill it this year. I sliced it in half, rubbed each half with olive oil and salt, then we grilled it over medium heat. I would have finished it in a 350F oven with a little white wine or broth (covered) because it was still a little tough, but I wanted to get lunch on the table. Eli was so great: he kept at me to cook it further so we steamed it. Softened it just enough for eating. The oven method tenderizes it so beautifully--you can cut it with a fork!

I think it was Dean Ornish who said the best way to lose weight is to stock up on vegetables, grains, beans and fruit.

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