Sometimes I get something so predictably, stupidly wrong. I hatch a plan, and really should know better. Alarm bells should be going off, warning lights should be flashing and a soothing voice should be saying over the intercom in my head “please evacuate building, do not take belongings with you and do not panic”. Unfortunately, my personal alarm system is not as reliable as I would like it to be.
So last night I ate Brussels endive with something yellow on top that looked like cheese but tasted nothing like it. See, I had had the harebrained idea to buy low fat cheese to cloak oven-bound endive. Experience should have taught me to make smarter choices. 30+ Cheese might have its uses, but forming a luscious layer of melted cheesy goo is not one of them. Instead, it seizes up into a tough layer that takes more jawpower to chew than your average beef jerky. Alas, experience did not speak and when my man peered into the oven after ten minutes’ cooking time, he wondered whether he’d forgotten to remove the bits of plastic that separate individual slices.
He hadn’t. That was the cheese.
Tonight, though, I got it surprisingly right. I had a bulb of fennel lying around, and wanted a salad to go with my onion soup. I love roasted or cooked fennel, but usually get bored pretty quickly of all the chewing raw fennel entails. Still, salad it had to be so I hoped for the best and started assembling, while fearing the bland and chewy.
I sliced the fennel thinly, and finely chopped three anchovies packed in oil. I scattered the salty, fishy bits over the fennel, followed by a few generous squeezes of lemon juice and a spoonful of nice olive oil. I mixed everything thoroughly and let it sit for a while, while I sliced onions. When the onions went into the pan, I took a tentative bite and could swear I heard my taste buds give a little giggle.
Fennel sometimes gets too sweet for my taste, but here it was kept in check by the lemon juice. The intensity of the anchovies added oomph to keep me from snoozing halfway through the salad. I think the oil wasn’t strictly necessary to mellow things out, but it added richness and what’s not to love about that? Perhaps the thing I was most pleasantly surprised by, though, was the fennel itself. Normally, I bust out the mandoline to slice fennel but today I economised on dishes and chose to wing it by knife. Was I glad I did! Slightly thicker fennel meant more juiciness and snap and less fiber-y chewing. Surprisingly right, indeed.