Sunday, September 10, 2006

Combinations Part II – Weekend Herb Blogging

See the previous long ranting post as a prelude to this food-specific post (if you dare!).

In the midst of all the recent flurry of activity, we still cooked and ate food.

We tried to keep it simple. But still flavorful.

And made a wonderfully easy, beautifully flavored pasta with a fennel and orange sauce.

Fennel and orange are two flavors that are wonderful in their own right. Both are unique, rich, aromatic. Oranges are the most frequently cultivated fruit in the world. And fennel has spread dramatically from a Mediterranean flavor to one used around the world.

Citrus Sinensus and Foeniculum Vulgare, as oranges and fennel are known, are described in detail in the links below:

But I most prefer the combination of the two. Fennel and orange. When the two are together, they really combine well into a sublime taste.

Somehow, the slight acidity of the orange provides a nice balance to the sweetness of both the orange and the anise flavored fennel.

To keep this flavor combination intact, you want to use the fennel raw, or nearly raw, as any cooking quickly kills the anise flavor, diminishing the effect of the combination.

We make a killer roasted beet, fennel and orange salad, which I’ve blogged about before, based on this combination.

This week, we combined the two to get a wonderfully flavored pasta sauce with shrimp. For , sponsored by .

Fairly easy to make. Fairly common ingredients. But the fennel / orange combination takes this dish to an ethereal height.

The key to the sauce is that it is basically not cooked. Just heated through. In that sense, it is more of a salsa than a sauce. With sauce often carrying the connotation of long cooking time to combine flavors. This dish is just the opposite, relying instead on a balanced presence of several strong flavors to achieve its pleasing effect.

Aside from deveining the shrimp, the whole thing was done in a half an hour. Which, in light of the previous post, was greatly appreciated by all.

As an added benefit, this is a very nutritionally balanced, low fat dish. Full of fresh vegetables and wonderful flavors.

Pasta with Shrimp in Orange Fennel Salsa
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

½ red onion, chopped
½ bulb fennel, chopped
zest from 1 orange
juice from 1 orange
1 cup chopped basil
6-8 Roma tomatoes, pip removed and chopped
Salt, pepper
Olive oil
3 cups dry white wine
2 tbsp fennel seeds
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 pound fettuccini pasta
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Grated parmesan, for garnish

Combine the tomatoes, red onion, fennel, basil, orange juice and orange zest in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil over the salsa, and combine well. Reserve.

In a large heavy pot, bring the wine, fennel seeds and garlic to a boil. Season with salt. Let simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes to let flavors combine. Add the shrimp, and cook, covered, until they are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp to a plate. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce by half.

Cook the fettuccini per package directions. Drain and reserve.

Add the salsa to the pot, along with the shrimp. Heat through over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.

Place fettuccini in a large serving bowl. Spoon the sauce over it, tossing lightly to combine. Arrange the shrimp on top. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

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