I peek at my vegetables. I sneak into the garden and gently pull away zucchini leaves to see the gorgeous yellow blossoms announcing the impending arrival of a deep green bounty. I brush away beet greens and carrot tops to catch a glimpse of the baby roots just emerging from the dirt, ever a tiny bit larger in circumference each day. Sometimes I even pull a 'tester' to check on the progress (and to thin out the rows, I tell myself). I think I'm really only one short step away from taking a measuring tape to the newly formed tomatoes. Soon. So soon. They'll all be here.
On the other hand, how could one possibly wait when greeted by these:
Did you know fennel has roots? I didn't. I didn't really think about it, I guess - I think I just assumed it grew like any other bulb. Now I know. These lovely babies were my 'testers' the other day. Their cohorts are growing quite nicely in their little spot, but I just had to try these while they were still young.
I don't regret it.
I'll probably do it again.
fennel, white beans and artichokes with Parmesan polenta
1 Tb. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 baby or 1 medium fennel bulb, chopped (and cored if necessary), a few fronds chopped and reserved for garnish
salt and pepper
1 small (6.5 oz.) jar of quartered artichoke hearts (mine were marinated; canned artichokes would also be fine), drained
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tb. fresh basil, chopped (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced fine (more or less to taste)
3 whole, peeled plum tomatoes and 1/4 C. tomato sauce from a can of whole, peeled plum tomatoes
1 - 16 oz. can of white beans (navy or cannellini)
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and fennel and saute just until onion is transparent, about 3-5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of fresh pepper. Add artichokes, thyme and basil (if using) and cook another minute. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands or the back your spoon. Pour in the reserved tomato sauce and add the beans, stirring gently to combine and cooking until heated through.
Serve with Parmesan polenta (recipe follows) and garnish with reserved chopped fennel fronds.
(I can't say enough about Bob's Red Mill medium grind cornmeal. It is so good. It just doesn't compare to any other widely available cornmeal for making such things as polenta, grits, cornbread, muffins, or corn cakes. It's my favorite and really worth seeking out.)
4 C. water
3/4 C. medium grind cornmeal or polenta (such as Bob's Red Mill)
salt and pepper
1/2 Tb. fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tb. butter
1/2 C. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
In a small saucepan (3-quart, or thereabout) bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, pour in the cornmeal in a slow, steady stream, whisking all the while to avoid lumps and fully incorporate smoothly. Continue whisking fairly frequently for 15-20 minutes or until mixture has thickened, maintaining a smooth consistency. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper (I use roughly 2 pinches of salt and 1/8 tsp. of pepper), add the thyme, butter and cheese, and whisk to combine (the butter and cheese will melt and incorporate).
Serve topped with fennel, white beans, and artichokes (recipe preceding)