Bruschetta Craving

There’s an early scene in Julie and Julia in which Amy Adams (Julie) cooks for her husband after a flustering day of work, grilling some thick, buttered slices of bread in a pan, practically stabbing them with a fork as she turns them over to reveal the most delicious-looking golden brown you’ve ever seen. They eat the bread with a tomato salad topping – bruschetta style – and I swear this is the only time my mouth has ever truly watered at food that appeared on my TV screen.

I realize that describing my drool habits is probably rather unattractive, and it’s not really the image of myself that I want to project out into internet-land, but suffice it to say, I was craving my own bruschetta on slices of golden buttery bread. I wanted to nonchalantly flip over crusty slices of several-days-old ciabatta while venting to my husband, but I just couldn’t ignore the sizzling butter, and I ended up eating a slice right out of the pan–even before my toppings were ready!

(I know. Naughty me. How dare I be tempted by something so simple.)

The choice of topping was a little more difficult. Of course it would be fabulous to chop up some tomatoes and some basil and drizzle it with balsamic vinegar and some olive oil. But it’s the middle of winter here, so we have to make some adaptations. And so, armed with a beautiful frond-y fennel that I found at my local health foods store, I set out to make a Greek fennel skillet from Simply in Season. It was wonderful. Light and refreshing and so totally something that you should eat in the spirit of re-making you, your life, your food, your whatever, in this new year.

Greek Fennel Bruschetta (from Simply in Season by Cathleen Hockman-Wert and Mary Beth Lind)

– 1 garlic clove, smashed
– 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and julienned or thinly sliced
– 1 small onion, sliced thin
– squeeze of lemon juice
– 1/2 can of diced tomatoes (or 1 large tomato, diced, when they’re in season)
– sprinkle of oregano, salt, and pepper
– handful of olives, bocconcini, and/or feta cheese

1. Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic clove to scent the oil.

2. Add the fennel and onion and saute gently about 10 minutes, until softened.

3. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the tomatoes, along with oregano, salt, and pepper. Simmer about 10 minutes until some of the tomato juice has evaporated/thickened slightly.

4. Meanwhile, spread some thick slices of ciabatta (or whatever leftover bread you have) with butter on both sides and fry in a griddle pan until golden brown on each side.

5. Just before serving the skillet, toss in your olives, mozzerella, or feta cheese.

You might even consider sauteeing a handful of diced cremini or portabello mushrooms with the onion and fennel for some extra texture and flavor. I think I’d try that next time.

Fennel has a deliciously cleansing flavor. Delicious, if your idea of cleansing is, like mine, a hearty crunch of licorice flavor in vegetable form. The good news is, even if that doesn’t sound appealing to you (like it doesn’t to Alex), cooking the fennel down as in this skillet recipe helps to temper most of that bite. I’m sure you’ll like it. I hope you do.

We made this as our entree, but it would make a fabulous appetizer. What fresh and exciting summer foods are you adapting for your wintertime cravings? Do tell.

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