Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fennel Compote with tomatoes, olives, and butter beans

I came across this recipe by Mark Bittman the other day and was intrigued. I love olives, capers, garlic, tomatoes, and thyme, separately or in combination, so it sounded like something I should try (and it was a good excuse to visit the olive bar at Wegman's).  I was also curious about roasting the canned tomatoes, which I had never heard of doing before, although I have used the Muir Glen fire-roasted canned tomatoes in the past and was not particularly impressed.

The recipe suggests serving this with fish, but of course that wasn't going to happen.  I pondered my protein options for a while and settled on giant lima beans, or butter beans if you prefer.  I cooked them separately the night before. 

I don't think I'd ever cooked fennel before.  I wasn't even sure which parts we were supposed to eat, so I started off with this video: 

I did put the stalks and fronds in a ziploc bag and stash them in the freezer for stock, as suggested.  I diced the trimmed fennel bulbs in small pieces, like onions.

I decided to try roasting the tomatoes.  I drained two 14 ounce cans of diced tomatoes (I needed about one tomato's worth for a different recipe, so I didn't end up using 2 full cans, but this is a pretty forgiving recipe and I think it would have been fine with a little more or a little less).  I lined a cookie sheet with foil and sprayed it with cooking spray, then spread the tomatoes across it in a single layer with my hands:

After about 20 minutes in the oven, I had this:

OK, maybe that isn't as dramatic as I'd hoped.  You can see a little caramelization on there, though, and I really do think roasting them concentrated the flavor.

While the tomatoes were roasting, I worked on sauteeing the fennel.  The recipe says not to let it brown at all, but I found that impossible.  Here's what the dish looked like when I got all the ingredients in the pan:

That's fennel, tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic, and thyme.  I used big olives, with pits, and put them in whole as instructed.  I can't tell you what kind they are -- I just picked what looked good at the olive bar.

To serve this, I heated up the butter beans I'd cooked the day before.  I was worried about them drying out in the microwave, so I cooked them in the leftover juice from the canned tomatoes.  Then I drained them and mixed them with the compote.

That's my Sunday lunch.  We served the beans with baked potatoes and a second rendition of the massaged kale salad.

Verdict:  delicious.  I was afraid the fennel flavor would be really strong and overpower everything else, but it was subtle.  I'm not sure how I feel about the few big olives.  Next time I might use Nicoise olives, or cut the olives up.  The leftovers tasted even better the next day, with a baked potato and some steamed green beans.

I would definitely make this again.  If I couldn't find fennel, I think it would work with onions, too.  In fact, that sounds great. 

No comments:

Post a Comment