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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fennel Pasta

I formatted my laptop recently and along with that deleted all the photos that had been stored on the machine over the past few years. These included ALL the photos that we had taken over the last few years. I panicked and called up my husband to report the terrible news to him.  That was when he gave me the good news that he had backed up the photos two days before and we hadn't lost all our photos. Whoosh! That was a terrible 10 minutes, while I tried to figure out how to retrieve the photos or what I could do. I am so glad that he had backed up the photos by chance and it is definitely a lesson in backing up data more frequently.
Well, so I still haven't gotten to moving the photos back to the laptop, but I did take pictures of some dishes I made recently, so I have something to tide me over for a while. This is a fabulous dish. It has a wonderful aroma and a very mild and pleasant taste.

I hadn't cooked with fennel before, well not the plant itself, just the seeds  I had a great time exploring this new vegetable. The fragrance took me back to the old days when we used to plant fennel in our backyard and wait for the plant to bear the tender seeds. Those seeds used to taste so sweet and delicious, we used to enjoy it. However, we never thought of using the actual plant to cook any dish. This was a pasta dish that was introduced to me by my sister-in-law made when I visited them this summer. It is a perfect pasta dish for summer! I absolutely loved it and she graciously shared her recipe with me. So here it is.

1 fennel bulb and its leaves (discard the stalks. See details in method below)
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zest and juice (optional)
1/2 packet of linguini pasta (about 16 ounces)
water to cook the pasta
parmesan cheese

In a pan deep enough to hold the linguini, take enough water to submerge the pasta. Add salt to the water, sufficient enough to make the water salty and then cook the pasta per directions on the package.

Cut the leaves off the stalks of the fennel and chop them finely. Do not use any stalks. Next, cut the large stalks off the fennel bulb and discard them. Then, divide the bulb into two and then remove the core of the bulb. Then slice the bulb into thin slices.

In a large pan (sufficient to hold the pasta), heat the oil and then add the fennel slices to the oil. Cook the fennel for about 10 -15 minutes till the fennel slices are cooked through and become soft. Cook on medium heat, so that they don't burn. The fennel slices are tough and will take some time to get cooked through. Next add the garlic and the fennel seeds to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, till the garlic is cooked through. Then season a little with salt and pepper. Then add the cooked pasta to the pan and mix it all together. Next, add the chopped fennel to the pasta and lemon zest. Mix well. Add a little lemon juice and mix well. Cook for a minute or two till all the ingredients are well blended. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over it and serve hot.

You can cook the pasta till it is al dente if you wish or cook it for a few more minutes till it is softer. I prefer the pasta being at a softer texture. Al dente is when the pasta is cooked through, but it still has a bite to it. The fennel core is pretty obvious and can be seen as a triangle at the base of the bulb when you cut the base into two parts vertically. If you are confused, it will be the tougher, central part of the bulb which is difficult to cut through.
When you zest a lemon, remember to stop grating the lemon rind when you reach the white part of the lemon skin called the pith. This is the bitter part. The zest is just the yellow part of the rind.


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