Tuesday, March 30, 2010

5 Minute Meal: Warm Fennel and Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Parsley

The lovely fennel bulb.  Fennel is a relatively new love for me, and I love this simple, fast recipe to prepare it.  Honestly, fennel doesn't look like much, and its cheap price -- it can usually be found for $1 a bulb -- makes it easy to overlook as nothing special.  But fennel has a lot to offer health-wise, in addition to taste-wise, and its lovely, slightly licorice-y taste.  Trust me, it's a delicate, mild flavor.  It's not like you'll feel like you're munching on a bag of black licorice candy.  So put your mind at ease, and give it a try!  Besides, for $1, what do you have to lose?

What you'll gain health-wise with fennel: it's a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium, among other vitamins and minerals.  This page has great info about the health benefits of fennel, if you want to read more.

But let's get cooking!  Here's what you'll need:

-- 1 good-sized fennel bulb (or a couple of smaller ones if that's all you can find)
-- extra virgin olive oil
-- 1 15 oz. can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
-- 1/2 fresh lemon
-- handful of chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
-- salt and pepper

First, you want to prepare your fennel bulb.  Wash that puppy well, then slice off and discard the base.  Then simply slice as thinly as you can all the way up to the stalks and the fronds, which you won't use for this.  If you want to chop up the fronds to sprinkle on top of the salad, you go for it.

Technically, I think I did this backwards; I think you're supposed to cut off the top, then slice thinly down to the base, but who cares as long as you get your thin slices?  So you pick whichever way you like the best, and it will work.  It's just cooking, after all.

Once you've got the fennel sliced and ready to go, heat up a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is warm, add your fennel slices and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fennel begins to soften and the edges start to caramelize. While your fennel is cooking, chop your parsley.

After about 5 minutes (and you can do this sooner if your fennel is cooking quickly, or if you like it a little crunchier), add in your chickpeas/garbanzos and cook for about a minute to warm through, stirring occasionally.  Then, turn off the heat, squeeze your 1/2 lemon over the fennel and beans, drizzle a little more olive oil, sprinkle liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper, throw in that handful of fresh parsley and stir.  Now taste.  What does it need?  More lemon?  More salt?  Adjust accordingly.  Then enjoy!

This is a great side dish, or for a meal, have it with some sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and hunk of crusty bread.  Or whatever sounds great to you.  Keep it simple, delicious, and healthy.


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