Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fennel and Sardine Pasta

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you can look forward to the following offerings from Sweetwater Farm and Fair Valley Farm:

green, yellow wax, and romano beans (try this bean salad with almonds and apricots)
tomatoes and fennel (make the pasta dish below)
squash blossoms, baby squash, and zucchini
celery and kohlrabi (great in kimchi)
cucumbers and carrots (make some spring rolls)
broccoli and cauliflower (nice grilled in packets with beets
cilantro, Italian parsley, and 1 lb bags of basil (make pesto)
bell and cayenne peppers
fresh spring garlic and Red Long of Tropea onions (delicious grilled on pizza)
kale, chard, collards (make a chard and bacon tart)
variety of lettuces including iceberg lettuce
sunflowers and cardoon flowers
dried beans and grains from Camus Country Mill
jams, salsa, and pickles from Sweet Creek Foods
pastured chickens (try spatchocked)

Fennel is the backbone of one of my favorite quick pantry pasta dishes with bright and refreshing flavors that are perfect for a warm summer evening. This recipe illustrates some principles of a well-stocked pantry. First, no pantry is complete without a supply of tomatoes, and the absolute best are freshly preserved (here I used some of my stash of Sweetwater Farm romas frozen last summer). Next, always keep on hand a collection of canned fish,including sardines, salmon, tuna, anchovies, and smoked trout. Lemons and garlic are necessities. And finally, I like to keep a frozen supply of fresh breadcrumbs, which are easily made from the stale ends of Eugene City Bakery baguette run through the grater blade of your food processor. Then all you need to do is pick up a fennel bulb at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, and you have a delicious midweek meal lined up to go. 

Linguine with Sardines, Fennel and Tomato
adapted closely from lastnightsdinner at food52

1 tin sardines packed in olive oil (about 4 ¼ oz.)
extra virgin olive oil
2-3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed, and roughly chopped
1 small or ½ large bulb fennel, fronds reserved
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes, or more to taste
2 cups peeled tomatoes (~12 romas) with their juice, gently crushed 
2 ounces white (dry) vermouth
1 medium lemon, juice and zest
1/3 cup toasted bread crumbs
1 lb pounds dry linguine

1. Bring a very large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Trim the fennel and slice the bulb very thinly. 

2. Open the sardine tin and drain the oil into a wide skillet (the amount of oil in the tin will vary by brand, so add additional extra virgin olive oil if necessary to make up 2 tablespoons). Warm the oil over medium-low heat and add the garlic, cooking until fragrant. 

3. Add the sliced fennel to the skillet with a sprinkle of salt, raise the heat to medium, and cook until the fennel is soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the chile flakes and let them sizzle for a minute, just until fragrant, then add the tomatoes with their juice. Cook until the liquid is reduced, then add the vermouth and let that reduce slightly. 

4. Add the sardines to the skillet with the tomato and fennel mixture, breaking up slightly but leaving some chunks. 

5. Add the linguine to the boiling salted water, cooking it until it is just short of al dente. 

6. As the pasta cooks, prepare the breadcrumb topping. Zest the lemon. Mince some of the fennel fronds. If using frozen fresh breadcrumbs, toast them lightly in a toasting oven or dry skillet. Combine a tablespoon or so of zest, along with a teaspoon of minced fennel fronds, with the toasted breadcrumbs, then set aside. 

7. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the pan. Taste and adjust salt if necessary. 

8. When the linguine is just short of al dente, use tong s to transfer to the sauce to finish cooking, adding a little bit of the starchy pasta water if necessary, and tossing gently to combine. (You'll want the sauce to be a little soupy, as the breadcrumbs will soak up the liquid and dry the pasta out a bit once you've added them.) 

9. Transfer the pasta and sauce to a large warmed serving bowl (or individual pasta bowls), add a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle on the toasted breadcrumb-lemon zest mixture, and garnish with picked small fennel fronds and the remaining lemon zest.

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