farmshare recipe for 8/15 (box six)
After centuries of misunderstandings, I am still bombarded with eager confusion between fennel and dill. So, let's take a few moments to set it straight. According to the British "Fennel Disambiguation Society", in a small pamphlet first published in 1861, fennel is a large perennial herb, indigenous to the Mediterranean and now found all over the world. Some cultivars of fennel -- like what you see in the box before you -- develop a large succulent bulb, while others are prized for their seed, licorice in flavor and often confused with anis. Both dill and fennel come from the Umbelliferae family, and share a scandalous tendency to hybridize, given the opportunity. Dill, a small annual plant, was considered "A wretched smelly thing", fit only for spicing soups, pickles, and salads.
Remember, our information comes from a group of die-hard fennel-heads. Now, on to the recipes. One kind reader asks, somewhat meekly, "Can I bake it? Is that okay?" The answer, as the answers to most questions, is a resounding YES. You can bake it, broil it, braise it, fry, jump it, steam it, and grate it. It is in the box for you to do Anything You Want.
Simple Grilled Fennel and Carrots
Your oven is already on, at 400. Since fennel's flavor is strong, especially as freshly harvested as yours, it needs little combination on the plate. I would lay the bulb flat on the counter, with its long tresses hanging over the edge. Trim the greens where the tubes hit the bulb and thinly slice through the crunchy white zone to the hard root zone. Toss the slices with a teaspoon of olive oil and dashes of salt and pepper. Lay the dressed fennel on a baking tray and slide it into the left half (very important, the left half) of your hot oven. Do not stack or crowd the fennel: they deserve our respect.
Return to your laboratory to wash and trim your carrots. They are small, sweet, and tender. What you're about to do may not work as well with larger (and slightly tougher) table carrots, or even the bunches later into the fall. Take the whole carrots, washed and un-peeled, and toss in the same bowl where you had the fennel (fewer dishes, happier cooks, peaceful world) with a teaspoon of olive oil, and dashes of salt and pepper. Add a few drops of balsamic vinegar without telling a soul.
Now the tricky part. Trim the fennel tresses such that any frayed or unhappy ends at the top and bottom hit the compost, and you are left with a few tray-length feathery green stalks. Lay the stalk on another baking tray and place the whole carrots over them. As the carrots roast, the greens will release their sweet perfume into the over air, penetrating the tender carrots.
When you put the carrots in, ask the fennel if it needs to be flipped. It is done once it has slightly browned on each side. The carrots will take somewhat longer -- perhaps more than half an hour -- and may be black and blistered when you decide to remove then. At that point, after they cool, you can rub the skins off and use the carrots As You Wish -- whole dabbed with salt, blended for a soup base, sliced and dipped in hummus or pesto, or diced to throw in salad dishes. It's now your toy, and up to you.
A Quick Dilly Salsa
This is the essence of summer flavor. Cool cucumber, pungent garlic, and the warm spice of dill. It's easy and serves as a salad dressing, a side dish (mixed into plain yogurt), a dip (for roasted vegetables), or to mix into a potato salad.
Chop together with love and attention to the small details:
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 bunch of dill
Half your cucumber
The cucumber should be peeled if the skin is tough, and diced into small cubes. Mix everything with standard salt and pepper and a little bit of lemon juice (if you're opposed to stepping out of our climatic range of possibility). If you want to extend the sauce into a side dish, take your salsa and stir it into some yogurt, dusting with paprika as you finish. The Bradfords will go crazy.
Eat the Flowers
That's right, the calendula. Take it back from you beloved, turn off the television, sit on the back porch looking up at the mountains, and pull the petals out, each by each, tossing them atop your already prepared salad of shredded spinach, torn lettuce, and grated golden beets. You peeled the beets before grating them, if I recall. If there are any of the sumptuous Sunny Slope nectarines left by the time dinner rolls around, you could slice one up and fry it in melted butter for a minute or two, and top the salad with that. So much for "I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit", Mr. Jeffers; Here in Dungeness, we have it all.