Monday, December 27, 2010

216. Linguine,Shrimp, Fennel and Orange Sauce, Mediterranean Flavor

You may have heard of fennel, but you  might not have seen or tasted it. Part of the problem is that fennel is not always a mainstream vegetable in the US. When I tried to purchase it at a local grocery store, the produce workers did not even know what it  looked like and the manager told me the store never carried it. So much for shopping in the Ozarks. (I finally found fennel at a different store; a picture of it is at the end of this post).

For the uninitiated, fennel is a vegetable that has a heavy, cream-colored bulb with tubular stalks growing out of it. The stalks have feathery green leaves branching off of them. To get the best flavors, you may want to grow it in your own vegetable garden. (How-to-grow-fennel link at end of post).

Fennel has many great properties and the following website link is an excellent source for information concerning it and other foods:
The website's name is World's Healthiest Foods. It is well worth investigating.

Select fennel with care.The bulbs should be firm and solid and not bruised.  Both the stalks and the leaves will be green in color. If there are flowers on the stalks, this would indicate that the bulb was too old when harvested; pass it by. Fresh fennel will be fragrant and smell slightly of anise. Fennel can be found in the autumn and throughout the winter months.Fennel should be consumed as soon as possible after purchase as it tends to lose its flavor when held too long.

I know that my mother never cooked with fennel, but I would not have been surprised if my Italian  grandmother had used it is definitely a vegetable used by Mediterranean cooks.

Years ago when I finally bought one of the fascinating fennel bulbs, I was slightly intimidated...I did not know what it tasted like or if I would like to eat it. What I did have was the recipe below, so I took the plunge. This recipe's delicate flavors combined with orange and shrimp plus the comforting aspects of linguine were wonderful. I added a few of my own ingredients to make this dish really pop with eye appeal and flavor.

Linguine, Shrimp, Fennel and Orange Sauce

8 oz fresh or frozen peeled deveined shrimp
8 oz linguine
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
1 T olive oil
1 C chicken broth
1-2 T cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp finely grated orange peel
¼ C orange juice
1-2 oranges, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
Black olives, sliced
1/2 C fresh mushrooms, sliced
Pepper blend, to taste
1 green onion, thinly sliced

Clean shrimp and set aside. In a large saucepan, cook pasta until almost tender.Add shrimp. Return to the boil and reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 1-3 minutes more or until shrimp is cooked and pasta is tender but al dente. Drain. Return the linguine and shrimp to saucepan. Cover and keep warm.

In a med. saucepan add oil over med heat. When hot, toss in sliced fennel and stir fry for for 3-5 min. or until tender crisp. Halfway through the cooking process, add the sliced mushrooms and saute with the fennel.

 Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together chicken broth and cornstarch. Add grated orange peel and orange juice. Pour broth mixture into fennel saucepan after the fennel and mushrooms have reached the tender-crisp stage. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Add orange slices and salt to taste, stir. Taste and adjust salt if necessary. Add as many sliced black olives as you like.

Pour fennel sauce over pasta mixture; mix gently until linguine is well coated. Transfer to serving dish. Sprinkle servings with green onion and pepper blend. 4 servings.

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