i've managed to convert rob. he was firmly planted in the "i don't like fennel" camp until this raw salad of shaved asparagus and fennel with a mustard dressing, and now he nibbles on the fennel tops on our way home from the farmers market. we've made it twice now, serving once with the crunchy topped, slow-roasted halibut in the recipe (we, and our dinner guest, thought the fish and salad were amazing), and another time on its own.
fennel is a fascinating vegetable. its bulb grows in a criss-crossing basket-weave pattern, and the stalks are long and slender, topped with delicate, feathery foliage. all parts are edible, and the taste is cool and herbal with a mild flavor of anise. the bulb hides dirt and sand between the outer couple of layers, so pull it apart to wash thoroughly. (it also grows wild all over the place around here, which makes walks around the neighborhood a fun and fragrant treasure hunt.)
for this recipe, the fennel is thin-shaved using the thinnest setting on a mandoline slicer. (you can do this with a knife, but it will probably make you grumpy. if you don't have a mandoline, get one! mine has changed my whole life, for the low, low price of something like 30 bucks.)
asparagus is too skinny for the mandoline, so use a vegetable peeler to shave thin slices from the trimmed stalks, and save the tips for another dish.
slow-roasted halibut with shaved asparagus and fennel salad
(salad is vegan and gluten-free)
4 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbps dijon or whole-grain mustard
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp drained capers, chopped
3/4 lb asparagus spears, trimmed
1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
handful of fennel foliage, rough chopped
2 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (i used panko)
3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbps chopped fresh italian parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp fine grated lemon peel
3 Tbps butter, melted
4 six-oz wild-caught pacific halibut fillets (also called alaskan halibut. avoid atlantic, and be cautious of california and greenland! read more on halibut best choices at monterey bay aquarium's seafood watch.)
for salad, whisk together lemon juice and mustard. slowly add olive oil while whisking, and mix in chopped capers.
use a vegetable peeler to make long, thin slices of the asparagus stalks. using a mandoline on the thinnest setting, shave the fennel bulb. toss asparagus and fennel bulb and foliage in the dressing. can be made ahead.
for fish, preheat oven to 300 degrees. prepare a baking sheet with a little oil. mix bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, lemon peel, herbs, and melted butter. season mixture with salt and pepper.
put fish on baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. divide bread crumbs among the fillets and press to adhere. bake fish for 20-40 minutes, depending on thickness of fish, until the center is opaque. (my fillets were almost 2" thick-- one took 32 minutes, the other 38 to cook through. watch it to not overcook-- the fish should be good and moist!) turn on broiler and broil about 1 minute until breadcrumbs begin to brown.
serve fish with salad.
asparagus-- canales farm
fennel-- alm hill gardens