Ella, tomatoes, and a bulb of fennel

Ah, Ella. I love you so. You make me want to stroll down Parisian cobblestone streets and dance, slowly, under the moon, and wear white gloves that come up to my elbows and kiss dashing young men in hats.

I am in the kitchen, a glass of chilled white wine in hand, Ella Fitzgerald’s voice drifting in from the living room (a little crackly – as records should be), my apron securely on, and dozens of tomatoes staring up at me, their red skins ridiculously bright against the white countertops.

But tomatoes are not on the forefront of my mind right now; fennel is.

Josh (the man with the hat and killer cherry tomatoes – see previous post) loves fennel. He eats it raw, straight from the bulb, standing barefoot in the kitchen. He grew it in his garden this year and talked about it the whole time.

I, on the other hand, have always had a slight aversion to fennel (which is surprising considering how much I adore licorice.) This might be because the only times I’ve ever had fennel were when I lived in Switzerland and it is a long-standing tradition in Switzerland (or at least in my Swiss family) to overcook vegetables whenever possible. And, boy do they. Fennel, being no exception, was always baked until every last inch of life was squeezed out of it. It ended up a pale, limp, and practically flavorless blob on my plate, staring up at me, daring me to eat it. You understand my aversion.

But tonight I am being adventurous and am choosing to give fennel another go. I’m going raw this time, though. There’s a beautiful lone specimen in the fridge, just waiting. You have to admit fennel is a gorgeous plant, with its creamy white bulb lacing itself insistently around its bright green stalks, so eager to escape and fan out into the world, like growing children impatient to flee their mother’s loving embrace.

I’ve decided on a shaved fennel salad. I’m thinking I can’t go wrong with parmesan, olive oil, and a hint of lemon. We shall see.

Tomatoes are, obviously, also on the menu and will take center place at the dinner table. Mainly because, aside from their superb sweetness and bursting summer taste, we are drowning in them. The plan is to slice them alongside my two bright green zucchinis and bake them until their flavors bubble up and their essences become one. I’ll be throwing in onions, garlic, herbs, white wine, and parmesan for good measure.

And so, my swinging hips and I are off to chop, sauté, and bake.

Recipes and the fennel adventure outcome to be posted tomorrow.

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