One of the many discoveries I had during my 6 weeks at Cambridge Culinary was that I like fennel. I had wrongly assumed that I didn’t like fennel because I didn’t like licorice, and therefore didn’t like anise, WHICH I mistakenly thought was the seed from a fennel plant. Live and learn — turns out that, while similar, anise and fennel seeds are NOT the same thing. Given my love for spicy Italian sausage, this doesn’t surprise me too much.
The recipe that turned me around was one that I originally scoffed at…until I tasted it. WOW. The Fennel Corn Chowder from the soups class at Cambridge Culinary is to die for. (I also thought that I didn’t like corn chowder up until this particular recipe made its way into my sweaty palms.) To start off, it’s got bacon in it. Score 1. Second, it has fresh roasted corn in it. By roasting the corn first, then adding the kernels to the soup at the tail end of cooking, the corn stays firm and maintains a nice snap when you bite it. Also, the process of roasting the corn and then simmering the cobs in with the broth infuses the entire soup with a smoky corn flavor reminiscent of something pulled out of a lobster bake pit. Score another point. The recipe is more or less the same as this one from Big Oven, minus the cayenne sauce (dash of cayenne pepper never hurt anyone, though). Next time I make it, I’ll post pictures, I promise.
In the meantime, I’ve been trying to use Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets cookbook as much as I can. Unfortunately, I haven’t found it to be overly helpful with the types of things I’ve been bringing home from my CSA. I’d like to try and find a cookbook that focuses on the specifics of New England crops and seasons instead (suggestions, anyone?)
Having warmed up to fennel, however, I did take it upon myself to try Deborah’s recipe for Pasta with Golden Fennel, making the fresh ricotta variation.
It was good — you got the hearty satisfaction of warm comfort food with the summery zip of lemon and delicate flavors of fresh ricotta. Next time around, though, I think I’d steer it more solidly into comfort food territory and reduce the lemon flavor, add some grilled chicken and perhaps mushrooms. Or bacon. Because everything’s better with bacon.