This week I am cooking Greek food.
My sister gave me Vefa Alexadiou's massive Greek tome, Vefa's Kitchen, for Christmas. It was at the top of my list(along with India, The Cookbook) of most-desired cookbooks this season. Both are beautifully published by Phaidon. So far, I'm delighted.
I've got a number of Alexadiou's dishes that I am anxious to share, but I thought I'd start with the simplest. Her sautéed fennel with garlic(Sarah, check this one out!) is a whole lot more than its name suggests.
The fennel is sautéed with whole cloves of garlic for fifteen minutes and then you add either water or tomato juice and simmer for another fifteen minutes. I used water, because the other dish I was serving already featured tomato juice, but I'm looking forward to trying it the other way, soon. You add a healthy dose of lemon juice at the end and that's it.
The fennel is soft, sweet, and tender, and the liquids reduce to produce a glaze-like sauce that is tangy and delicious. My sister felt that there could have been even more lemon, so you'll want to play around with it, to see what suits you.
I didn't have eight small fennel bulbs, so I cut two large bulbs into eighths. This worked just fine. I also didn't have the fronds left on the bulbs, so I did without. I didn't find the dish lacking at all.
If made properly, the dish might be even more terrific, but I was thoroughly pleased.
Sautéed Fennel with Garlic
5 tablespoons olive oil
8 small fennel bulbs, halved
6 garlic cloves, peeled (feel free to add more!)
1/2 cup water or tomato juice
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons finely chopped fennel fronds
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet. Add the fennel and garlic, and cook, frequently turning, for approximately 15 minutes, until golden brown. Pour in the water or tomato juice. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. The fennel should be tender when pierced with a knife or fork and the sauce will have reduced.
Stir in the fennel fronds and lemon juice, gently shaking the pan. Serve immediately.