Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Medi Bake

This is an Artichoke Heart-Fennel bake; the original recipe came from Food and Wine, courtesy of Suzanne Goin.

The fennel tastes so crisp and fresh even after sauteeing and baking, and the dish overall has a surprising subtlety and layers of flavor combination. Overall, it's great. I used a lot less olive oil than the original prescribed, in part because I halved the recipe. I also used artichoke hearts instead of whole globe artichokes, spreading the fennel mixture over the hearts instead of inside the artichokes. The end result looked somewhat like a casserole, but I put it out on a plate, the layers broke apart somewhat, giving the consumer a full view of all the different ingredients.

Three points to note concerning the fennel artichoke bake:

I love any dish that cooks garlic through enough to allow for huge chunks of it without it being overwhelming, and this is one of the best in that regard I have found so far.

The dish also holds up really well the next day, and since it's a nice combination of low-fat and filling, makes a great lunch for work.

Finally: so much of the preparation for this dish can be done the night before or several hours before eating, and the actual cooking is a) pretty easy, and b) fast (about 20 minutes), making it all-around perfect as a side dish or appetizer for guests. I'm definitely filing this one away for future entertaining endeavors.

And now, the recipe (adjusted):

Artichoke and Fennel Bake
  • 10 artichoke hearts
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium fennel bulb--trimmed, halved lengthwise, cored and finely chopped
  • Onion powder, to taste
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/8 cup leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
  1. Rub the artichokes in lemon juice and set them, cut side down, in a large steamer basket. Steam the artichokes over boiling water until the hearts are tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large deep skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the oil until shimmering. Add the fennel and onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, then stir in the chopped parsley.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°. Toss the bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon of the oil and spread them on a baking sheet. Toast for about 3 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the crumbs to a plate. Raise the oven temperature to 450°.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a very large skillet. Pat the artichokes dry and add them to the skillet, cut side down. Cook over moderate heat until deep golden, about 4 minutes. Arrange the artichokes in a large baking dish and cover them with the fennel mixture. Sprinkle with the toasted bread crumbs and bake for about 15 minutes, or until heated through.
  5. In a bowl, toss the parsley leaves with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and the 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Top the artichokes with the parsley and serve.

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