When we first moved into our home about 12 years ago, it had a beautiful vegetable garden in the side yard that was surrounded by the ubiquitous suburban white picket fence. I envisioned baskets brimming with farmer’s market quality vegetables that I would soon be transforming into healthful meals for my family. I saw myself, hoe in hand; laboring on the land creating a colorful garden of culinary delights. That dream lasted exactly one summer. The shade of the towering white oaks circling our yard created a garden filled with mold and rot…well, maybe my lack of garden knowledge and skill had something to do with it. My kind neighbor (no doubt disturbed by their view of our now garden eyesore) reminded me that we live in a town with farm stands aplenty, "...leave the gardening and farming to the experts" she said. So fast forward 10 years, we have about 5 or 6 reliable farm stands (in season of course) and most recently (one month to be exact) one year round Whole Foods Market.
Probably the most exciting fringe benefit of getting a new Whole Foods Market in our town is the fact that the other supermarkets in town have really stepped it up in the produce department. Our town wide selection of organic produce has increased exponentially. A few months ago it seemed that things like jicama and fennel were exotic, once in a blue moon produce department stocked items and now I have my pick of the crop at all the supermarkets in town.
On a recent trip to Whole Foods I picked up a head of fennel. I have decided to try my hand at pickling. I have never pickled anything (except maybe myself on a few occasions). I found a Martha Stewart recipe for pickled fennel and I'm going to give it a go. The Martha Stewart recipe called for 9 bulbs of fennel-I just wanted to taste it, not make a year's supply, so I tried adapting it for 1 bulb. I'll let you know how it turns out in a few days.
1 Fennel bulb
2 tablespoons orange zest
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 whole piece star anise
Wash the fennel and cut away any bruises. Trim ends and slice into very thin rings; place the rings in a small bowl or jar and stir in the orange zest.
Bring the water, vinegar, salt, sugar and star anise to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot liquid over the fennel; cover tightly and bring to room temperature.
Store in the refrigerator and serve in a day or two.
Update: the fennel was ok... I served it with grilled fish. I'm not sure I like the whole pickling thing though. I really prefer fennel raw in a salad or maybe sauteed with pasta and chicken.