SLOW-COOKER POT ROAST WITH POTATOES, CARROTS AND FENNEL

The Instant Pot is the most recent obsession of cooks everywhere. As a lover of all gadget things, I’ve been seriously tempted to get one, but decided against it. My rationale for swimming against this current is that a regular pressure cooker does the exact same job, with the advantage of heating up faster and achieving higher final pressure (at least my model does).  I always use a skillet if I need to brown meat before cooking under pressure, so the saute feature of the Instant Pot doesn’t appeal to me. Its surface is smaller, I much rather stick with my 12 inch skillet for that. Then there is the slow-cooking capability. From what I heard, it does not compare to a regular slow-cooker and more often than not your tried and true recipe for the trusty old crock pot needs to be tweaked. I also think the size and shape of the classic slow-cooker are more appropriate for the type of stuff I cook in it. Think large pieces of pork shoulder, baby back ribs, or several little pots of custard things for crème brûlée. The only feature of the instant pot that cannot quite be matched by other gadgets is the yogurt making. But, do I ever make yogurt at home? Not really. So there you have it, the Bewitching Kitchen will go on Instant Pot-less. And today I share with you a pot roast made in our crock pot, melt-in-your-mouth tender, with the delicious addition of fennel, that absolutely makes this dish. Don’t omit it. By all means, if you own the Instant Pot, put it to use. My feelings won’t be hurt…

SLOW-COOKER POT ROAST WITH POTATOES, CARROTS AND FENNEL
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or oil of your choice)
1 bone-in chuck roast, 4 to 5 pounds
2 tsp Herbes de Provence
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
6 yellow potatoes (such as Yukon Gold), halved
2 fennel bulbs, cut in large pieces
6 carrots, peeled, and cut in large pieces
1 shallot, diced
1 stick celery, diced
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup water
fresh parsley, to serve (optional)

Mix the spices in a small bowl, crushing the fennel seeds lightly. Rub the dry rub all around the beef.  In a large skillet, heat the oil and brow the meat on all sides. As the meat browns, place the potatoes, carrots, fennel, shallots and celery inside your slow-cooker. Season them lightly with salt.

When the meat is golden brown, transfer it to the slow cooker, placing it on top of the veggies. Deglaze the skillet with a little water, and transfer the juices to the slow-cooker. Add the beef broth and water. Set it on low for 10 hours, you can also cook on high for 5 to 6 hours, but I really prefer the texture of the meat when cooked low and slow.

Shred or cut the beef in serving pieces, and enjoy with all the veggies. It is even better when prepared one day in advance.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This was very good served over mashed cauliflower, my to-go veggie of choice for a low-carb side dish. I made the pot roast the day before our dinner, and re-warmed it gently on the stove top, adding fresh parsley right before indulging in it. The exact same recipe could be made in the pressure cooker, probably taking around 30 minutes in high pressure. Still, there’s something to be said about coming home to a house that smells like dinner is waiting for you with open arms. Even if you will place it in the fridge for a day…  Leftovers are as amazing as one would expect!

ONE YEAR AGO: The Best, the Very Best Hummus

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TANGENTIAL QUICHE WITH ASPARAGUS AND FENNEL

I would like to thank everyone who contacted me about my Mom’s passing.
It is a natural cycle of life to say goodbye to a parent, but it is still very painful.
Your kind words warmed my heart.

I’ve taken way too many liberties with recipe titles. Hummus without chickpeas? Yes, guilty of that one. Tortillas with no corn? Read my sentence. Rice-free risotto? Just take me. Today I add one more to the list. A quiche. But no crust. In fact, I’ve made a version almost exactly one year ago using sweet potato slices to cover the pie dish. We loved it so much that it’s hard to believe it took me so long to re-visit. This time I paired asparagus and fennel, with a small amount of cheese for good measure. Trickiest part of this recipe is getting the sweet potato slices to roast without shrinking too much and collapsing from the sides of the dish. Still, even if that happens, no major harm will be done. It is all going to be delicious.

SWEET POTATO CRUST QUICHE WITH ASPARAGUS AND FENNEL
(inspired by The Wimpy Vegetarian)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced thin
olive oil spray for potatoes
kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon total)
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup thinly sliced asparagus plus a few stalks left whole for decoration
1 large fennel bulb, diced
4 large eggs
2 egg whites
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 cup Gruyere cheese
nutmeg to taste

Heat oven to 400°F.

Coat a pie dish with the sliced potatoes, and spray a good amount of olive oil over the slices. Make sure to do a nice layer all around the edges coming up above the rim of the plate. Season lightly with salt. Place in the oven until the potatoes start to get some color, about 12 minutes. Reserve and lower the oven to 350 F.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the asparagus and fennel, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until just tender, about 8 minutes; set aside. Place the whole stalks in a microwave safe dish with a little water, microwave for 30 seconds. Reserve.

Whisk eggs, egg whites, half-and-half, milk, mustard powder,  half teaspoon salt and pepper in another large bowl. Spread the sautéed asparagus and fennel evenly on top of the sweet potato crust. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the vegetables. Pour the egg mixture over it all. Place the stalks of asparagus carefully on top. Grate fresh nutmeg across the top just before sliding into the oven.

Bake until quiche is set and crust is well browned, about 30 minutes, but check after 25 minutes in the oven. It should just jiggle lightly at the center.  Let cool to room temperature before cutting into wedges.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I love fennel but despise licorice. Go figure that one. My problem with fennel is that you buy this huge bulb and by the time you’re done prepping it, you are left with 1/4 cup at most of goodness. Oh, well. Maybe I don’t do a good job prepping it. But all instructions say to remove the tough outer layer. That “outer layer” is often so thick, a huge amount of fennel is gone once I remove it. Oh, well again. But I do love its flavor, both raw in salads, roasted, sautéed, it’s all great.  I am still learning my way around the sweet potato “crust.”  If you go to Susan’s site, you’ll  notice she opted for a hashbrown path to make the crust. That is definitely something to consider. At any rate, a quiche without the regular crust is so much lighter, and a lot quicker to prepare too. Obviously, you could omit the crust altogether, just coat the pie dish with a little butter or oil, add the veggies, pour the egg mixture and bake it. But it’s nice to have a bit of texture underneath.  Whatever you choose to do, this filling with asparagus and fennel, a touch of Gruyere (a favorite cheese of mine) is a winner.

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Fakebouleh

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SLOW COOKER PORK RAGU WITH FENNEL

Another one for the OMG files. My vegetarian friends will have to avert their eyes, because this one is the omnivore’s dream come true. Pork shoulder, another example of a cut of meat that performs very well when prepared in the slow cooker, without any compromise in texture. Fennel is the magical ingredient that takes the dish from simple to spectacular. The recipe comes from Serious Eats, a site that never disappointed me. Kenji’s recipes are trustworthy by default.

pork-shoulder-fennel
SLOW COOKER PORK RAGÚ WITH FENNEL
(slightly modified from Serious Eats)

1 (6-pound) bone-in pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut on the bias
2 large shallots, sliced
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 Parmesan rind

Season pork all over with salt and pepper and place in the bowl of a large slow cooker. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add fennel and carrot and cook, stirring often, until vegetables start to brown, 6 to 10 minutes. Add shallots and continue cooking until softened, about 4 minutes longer.  Add wine and bring to a boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, crushed red pepper, oregano, rosemary, sage, and Parmesan rind. Stir to combine and transfer to the slow cooker, pouring tomato mixture on top of the pork shoulder.

Cover and cook on low setting for 10 to 12 hours, basting with tomato sauce occasionally. When pork is fall-apart tender, transfer meat to a bowl and discard thyme, bay leaves and Parmesan rind. Skim fat from the top of the sauce and adjust seasonings, if needed.   When meat is cool enough to handle, shred using two forks, and discard the bone and any undesirable fat. Mound meat on top of your favorite side dish, spoon sauce on top and garnish with shredded Parmigiano.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositepoekragu
If we have to say goodbye to summer, let’s at least indulge into a bit of comfort food, shall we? Pork shoulder has that melt in your mouth quality that makes it perfect to create a ragú such as this one. Plus, using the slow cooker makes life so easy, you arrive home to the delicious smell of a dinner basically ready and waiting. If you don’t have a crock pot, use your regular oven low and slow or a pressure cooker fast and furious. How about that for flexibility?

oskypork

The classic side dish for this ragú would be pappardelle, but for the sake of our waistline I normally opt for a root veggie pure, in this case a cauliflower and  rutabaga mix. A bit of Parmigiano shaved on top just for good measure. Leftovers get better and better, and if you don’t mind stretching the boundaries of fusion cuisine, they work surprisingly well as a filling for tacos. Remember… flexibility rules, at least in the Bewitching Kitchen it does!

slow-cooker-pork-ragu-with-fennel-from-bewitching-kitchen

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Pimp your Veg, a Guest Post

TWO YEARS AGO: Cooking Light Pan-Charred Veggies 

THREE YEARS AGO: Pomegranate Chicken Thighs and Carrot Mash

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Many Faces of Kale

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Short and Sweet 

SIX YEARS AGO: Ciabatta, a Classic Italian Bread

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Magical Lamb Stew

 

 

FENNEL SOUP WITH ALMONDS AND MINT

I am sure that each blogger has a favorite approach to getting their posts prepared. The Bewitching Kitchen has been around for almost 5 years, and I more or less settled on a pace of two posts per week, which suits me  well. It is not too stressful, and allows me to work on new articles exclusively during the weekend.  For the most part, I  have a backup of 8 or more posts lined up, so the recipes you see on my blog were probably at our table several weeks earlier… but sometimes I make something so tasty that I feel like blogging about it right after finishing the meal.  It was the case for this soup, simple ingredients, quick to prepare, but it feels like something worthy of a Michelin-starred restaurant.  Creamy, luscious, without a single drop of heavy cream in it.  I had noticed the recipe on Cooking Light, and even jotted down the ingredients on my shopping list.  But the weather turned a little warmer, and soup left my mind. What changed all that? Steve’s post at Oui, Chef…  His description of this fennel entity left me craving for a bowl, no matter the temperature outside. End of story.

FennelSoup
FENNEL SOUP WITH ALMONDS AND MINT
(slightly modified from Oui, Chef)

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups sliced fennel bulb (I used two large bulbs)
1 shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar (I added 1 tsp)
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
3 tablespoons small fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 ounce grated Parmigiano cheese

Heat a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat.  Add fennel, onion, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook 6 minutes or until crisp-tender (do not brown), stirring occasionally.

Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 1/2 cups water, vinegar, and beans.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.  Place half of mixture in a blender.  remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender.  Place a clean towel over opening in the lid.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into a large bowl.  Repeat procedure with the balance of the mixture.

Combine almonds, mint, zest and cheese.  Divide soup among 4 bowls; top with almond mixture and if desired drizzle a little olive oil before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  You know one of my greatest pet peeves?  Soups that are finished off with a load of heavy cream.  A couple of years ago, while watching a show by Pioneer’s Woman,  I literally screamed at the TV when she shared a recipe for the “best ever” cauliflower soup.  I swear that her version was 5% cauliflower, 15% butter, 20% cheese, 20% milk, 40% heavy cream. Heck, you can omit the cauliflower, add powdered rocks instead and people will be licking their spoons!  And now that I elegantly stepped out of my soap box, I can tell you that this soup takes the exact opposite approach.  Using white beans to improve the texture is a trick I shall not forget. The fresh mint they had at the store was not looking very good,  so I used some dried mint instead (added it together with the beans) and topped the soup with minced fennel fronds. Fresh dill would be great there too.

At Oui, Chef you can see a gorgeous photo for the soup, with mint leaves floating on top, quite artistic. Pay Steve a visit and say hello…  He is an impressive guy: father of five (!!!!), with a cool one-line bio…

I’m a blogger on a mission to encourage parents to teach their kids how to cook and eat well”.

But don’t take that statement lightly, he spent two years in France, got “Le Grande Diplome” at Cordon Bleu, and also studied at The Ritz Escoffier,  Lenotre, and Bordeaux L’Ecole du Vin. Beyond impressive.  If that was not enough, he is also a fan of Tony Horton’s P90X. See? P90Xers are slowly taking over, one food blog and one pull-up at a time…   😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin

TWO YEARS AGO: Farfalle with Zucchini and Ricotta

THREE YEARS AGO: Slow-baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

FOUR YEARS AGO: Hoisin Explosion Chicken

CHEDDAR AND FENNEL SEED CRACKERS

Cheddar Fennel Crackers
These crackers were part of the appetizers we served at a small dinner get-together.  I’ve always wanted to re-visit crackers, as my first experience with them was pretty awesome. But way too long ago, this blog was just a baby back in September 2009.  Fun times. These are completely different creatures, thick and flavorful, they stand by themselves without the need of any spread.  The fact that you can make them ahead of time, then slice & bake is an added bonus. I am all for making my life easier when entertaining. Let me rephrase that. I am all for making my life easier. 😉
.tray.
CHEDDAR AND FENNEL SEED CRACKERS

(adapted from the blog Lemons & Anchovies)
.
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (grated with a Microplane)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 + ¼ cups all-purpose flour
zest of 1 lemon
Pinch kosher salt
A pinch or two of freshly ground black pepper
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Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for about one minute. With the mixer on low-speed, add the cheese, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and fennel seeds just until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  With the mixer still in low-speed add the flour,  and turn off the mixer once the mixture is in large crumbles, about one minute.
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Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, press into a ball then roll it into a 9-inch log. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes before slicing and baking.
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When ready to bake, heat your oven to 350℉. Slice the dough into roughly 3/8-thick rounds and lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can sprinkle more fennel seeds on top of the rounds if you wish.
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Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through the cooking time, until very lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack and serve at room temperature. They keep well in an airtight container for a few days.Makes about 24 rounds.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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composite
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Comments: 
At first I had some trouble shaping the log of dough, and had to add a little more flour, but finally it all came together smoothly.  These crackers have a shortbread feel, they crumble as you bite into them, and their flavor gets more and more pronounced as you chew them. The lemon zest definitely adds a lot, even though fennel and cheese are strong components in the overall taste.  The basic recipe could be taken in many different directions with different cheeses and spices…  I think that an experiment with a little bit of dried lavender could be quite interesting, but it might be tricky to pick the right cheese to go with it.
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This was my first time baking this type of cracker. After slicing it would have been nice to smooth out the surface gently with the tip of the finger, particularly the edges.  Something to consider for next time. Bake and learn, my friends, bake and learn…
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TWO YEARS AGO: My First Award!
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THREE YEARS AGO: A Message from WordPress
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FOUR YEARS AGO:
Turkish Chicken Kebabs

THERE WILL BE BREAD


Drum roll, please…  

This post officially inaugurates the new kitchen in The Little Apple!  What better than a loaf of bread to start things on a nice track?  So, let me share with you a golden bread perfumed with the special saffron I received as a gift from our friend Steve. The bread looked like a blast of sunshine sitting on the black granite, and it made nice cracking noises as it cooled, the promise of a nice crumb underneath a hearty crust.

GOLDEN SAFFRON & FENNEL LOAF
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by Flo Makanai)

125 g  sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
250 g water (divided)
large pinch of saffron
375 g bread flour
7 g salt
1 tsp fennel seeds

Heat 50 ml (no need to be precise) of water in a microwave until almost boiling, add the saffron and let it sit until it cools to almost room temperature, stirring every now and then.  Strain the saffron water through a fine mesh colander, and add to the rest of the water for a final volume of 250ml. Reserve.

Add the active starter to a large bowl, mix it with the water until it dissolves more or less smoothly. Add the flour and the fennel seeds, and briefly do a few kneading moves to form a shaggy mess.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough and incorporate by kneading lightly and folding the dough on itself.  You can keep the dough in the bowl, or transfer to a surface.  After 20-30 seconds of kneading/folding, cover the dough again and let it sit for 40 minutes (total rising time up to this point: 1 hour).

Repeat cycles of quick kneading/folding two more times, spacing them 40 to 50 minutes.   After the third and final kneading cycle, let the dough sit for 20 to 30 minutes, shape it as a round or oval loaf, and leave it at room temperature  30 minutes longer.  Total rising time from beginning to end: about 3 and a half hours.  Place it in the fridge overnight.

Remove the dough from the fridge 2 hours before baking (see my comments). Heat the oven to 450F. If using a clay pot, place it in the cold oven as you turn it on. Bake the bread covered for 30 minutes, remove cover, and allow it to fully bake (reducing the temperature to 425F if the bread seems to be browning too fast) for 12 to 15 minutes longer.  Remove to a rack to cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  It’s been a while since I baked a loaf of bread that made me as happy as this one! I’d been refreshing my starter for weeks in a row, but placing it back in the fridge, unable to squeeze bread baking in our crazy schedule.  My cookbooks are not unpacked yet, so I decided to go with the simple but very efficient method devised by Flo Makanai years ago: her famous 1, 2, 3 recipe.   One part starter, 2 parts water, 3 parts flour.  You can adapt and use any liquid or flour, but that’s the basic formula.   I wanted to incorporate saffron in the dough, and fennel seemed like a good match too.  Considering that it was not a tried and true recipe, and that it would be my first time using the oven in our new home, I admit I was  pushing the envelope. Interesting expression, by the way, I learned its origin not too long ago, and was a bit surprised. No Post Office material was used in its making.  Live, and learn.

Live, learn, and bake!  😉

To add a bit more emotion to the adventure, I could not find my banettons to proof the dough after shaping.  I actually have two, one round, and one oval, but they are both MIA, probably hidden inside one of the unpacked boxes.  I ended up using a copper colander, lined with a white cloth.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

I pushed the envelope once more by removing the dough from the fridge only 30 minutes before placing it in the 450F oven, trying to minimize the time our kitchen would be exposed to such insanely high temperature. Still, the bread had an impressive oven spring, and the beautiful, golden open crumb I hoped for.  It would be amazing with paella or a bowl of bouillabaisse, but until the weather cools enough for those dishes, we’ll enjoy it with fresh, juicy tomatoes and a sprinkle of Maldon salt.   Simple pleasures. Golden pleasures.

A final remark: I wish I could take credit for the title of this post, but my beloved husband was the genius behind it…  Sorry, ladies, he’s mine, all mine!

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting.

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2011

TWO YEARS AGO: Heavenly Homemade Fromage Blanc

THREE YEARS AGO: A Perfect Sunday Dinner

CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY: HEIRLOOM TOMATOES STEAL THE SHOW

Ideally, my Wednesday special meal will catch Phil by complete surprise, but this time he had been snooping around the depths of our fridge. Just as I was getting ready to cook dinner, he asked me with a big smile “we’re having scallops tonight for dinner, aren’t we?”.  Bummer. Just could not get him this time.

I had the inspiration for this meal when I brought home a couple of heirloom tomatoes, and was blown away by how juicy and delicious they were.  I went right back to the store and bought some more.    They turned into a fantastic sauce, paired with leeks and a thinly sliced fennel bulb.  Scallops crowned the meal with their touch of class, always welcome. Another Wednesday evening made ultra-special!

PASTA WITH SCALLOPS IN HEIRLOOM TOMATOES AND FENNEL SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 Tbsp olive oil (+ a little more for searing scallops)
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, frowns reserved
3 to 4 heirloom tomatoes, depending on their size
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp orange zest, divided
8 sea scallops
¼ tsp ground fennel
spaghetti, or pasta of your choice

Boil the water to cook the pasta.

Core the tomatoes and cut them in large chunks, but don’t seed them.  Reserve.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, then saute the leeks and the sliced fennel for about 5 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.  When they are soft and starting to get some golden color, add the tomatoes and half the orange zest. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes start to melt and release a lot of juice.  Cover the pan, and keep at a simmer.

Cook the pasta, and when it’s 5 minutes from being ready, heat a non-stick skillet on high heat, add olive oil just to coat the surface lightly.  Pat the scallops dry, season lightly with salt, pepper and ground fennel, and sear them, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Reserve some of the pasta water, drain the pasta and add to the tomato/fennel pan, increase the heat slightly, and let the pasta and the sauce cook for a minute or so together. If needed, add some of the pasta water to the sauce.  Add the remaining orange zest, the scallops on top, and sprinkle with minced fennel fronds right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

If you make this dish with “regular” tomatoes, it simply won’t be the same, so try to find these funky looking babies, they are superb, particularly the brown ones.  We could not get over the flavor of this dish, so few ingredients, but they work together beautifully, and the scallops (make sure you get a nice sear on the outside) are not overpowered by the sauce.

Normally I reserve the pasta water to adjust the consistency of a pan sauce, but in this case it was not necessary to add any.   The tomatoes did their job providing all the moisture to coat the pasta strands.

If you don’t like scallops,  shrimp could be a good option, or chicken breast filets.  If you want to keep it vegan,  maybe grilled tofu could work too.  But don’t mess with the heirloom tomatoes!

ONE YEAR AGO: Pain de Provence

TWO YEARS AGO: Golspie Loaf

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