I had been gearing up to post about what I call Market Mystery. This is either the new or unexpected produce that turns up at the market or in your CSA box that you would never dream of buying out of your regular habits. Turns out, this event coincided perfectly when I invited my neighbour over for dinner.
I had thrown together some basic menu ideas and headed out to the grocery store to pick up some last minute things – shamefully the same things I seem to grab every time I’m out. Yes, staples are one things but redundant patterns are another. I began to think I should practice what I was about to preach.
Passing through the produce aisle, I realized I was about to ignore the fennel the same way I have done about one thousand trips before. Looking at the round white bulb and the bright green feathery fronds, I realized I’d never even tasted it. I actually think I might have been a bit intimidated on what to do with it exactly. I took the plunge, altered my menu plans and picked one out. Once I’d returned home with my fennel, I wanted to see what I could find out about my new vegetable. I knew the basics already, the other name of Anise gave away it’s licorice like flavour undertones. I’d previously seen it in salads, thinly sliced, usually served with orange segments but when I tasted it I thought I might go for the alternative of a roasted flavour. All around the fennel bulb is a combination of licorice, cabbage and celery flavours but the licorice tends to mellow when it’s cooked.
Since it’s summer, I opted for grilling instead of roasting. Not only did I want to keep the extra heat out of my house, I thought the smokiness might be a nice addition. Fennel, as intimidating as I first thought, is very simply to prepare. The bottom root end, the stalks and fronds need to be removed, but not discarded – I ended up using practically everything here and there. I sliced the bulb down the centre and tossed over the marinade.
Other than the time taken to grill, this recipe was a snap. My guests were impressed and I have become a fennel convert.
Now onward to Jerusalem artichokes, golden beets and kohlrabi. Which are the vegetables, you’ve eyed, but not tried?
GRILLED VEGETABLE STRUDEL
1 Bulb Fennel
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Orange Pepper
1/2 Red Onion
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Vermouth (optional)
1 Tablespoon Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped (optional)
Crack of Black Pepper
1 Sheet of Puff Pastry*
Heat the grill to medium.
Remove the top fennel fronds and reserve.
Cut the base from the fennel, slice down the center.
Remove the ends from the zucchini, slice lengthwise.
Slice the onion into 1/4″ rounds.
Toss the fennel, zucchini and onion in the balsamic, oil, vermouth and pepper.
Add the vegetables, along with the pepper to the bbq and grill, turning regularly, until the vegetables have even grill marks and have softened.
Place the pepper into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam.
Remove the skin and pull the stem from the pepper to remove the seeds.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Roll out the puff pastry to a 10″x10″ square.
Chop the vegetables roughly.
Add garlic, parsley and reserved fennel fronds, if using, salt to taste and add pepper if necessary.
Spoon and evenly distribute the grilled vegetable mixture to the center of the pastry to form a line.
Pull the first side of the pastry over the vegetables, roll the pastry and vegetables over into the remaining pastry. Dot the end with water to seal. Flip the pastry so the seal is on the bottom.
Transfer the strudel to a non-stick baking dish or cookie sheet. Score the top.
Bake on the center rack for about 25-30 minutes. Remove once the pastry is golden and crisp.
* As to date, Tenderflake in Canada and Pepperidge Farms brands of puff pastry are vegan.
However, As with any prepared food you should be prepared to read the label.
Serve with a drizzling of Roasted Red Pepper Purée.