A few years back I remember asking the produce guy at the Walmart* where I shop if they had by any slim chance some fresh fennel hidden in the back storeroom. I knew it was futile, but what the hell, right? My request was met with a blank stare as I feebly tried to explain what it looked like and how it tasted. Did he know what anise was? No? Well…okay, then. Then out of nowhere about three weeks ago, beautiful bulbs of fennel appeared tucked next to the jalapeño peppers and the pile of gingerroot. I’ve been a little fennel-mad ever since. Who knows when they may decide to stop carrying it??
*Please refrain from leaving negative comments about Walmart. The next time you live 25 minutes from the nearest “big” town – where Walmart is the only game in town – and two hours away from a Whole Foods you can be as judgmental as you want.
This earthy green dish is, I think, an ideal way to celebrate Earth Day. Celebrate the good stuff that’s in the main ingredients in this dish:
- A one cup serving of fresh fennel delivers 17% of your daily dose of the antioxidants vitamin C and A
- get your roughage! Consuming fiber may lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease
- this flavorful herb may be good for your digestion and for decreasing, um, passing wind
- protect your cells from free radicals with this vitamin C-rich veggie
- contains lutein which is good for eye health
- contains manganese – a powerful mineral that, like vitamin C – protects your body from damage from free radicals
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 large fennel bulbs, stems and fronds removed (reserve some fronds), roughly chopped
- 2 medium-sized zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 cup raw cashew pieces, soaked for 30 minutes and drained
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
- 7-ounces extra firm silken tofu
- 1 Tbsp. mild white miso paste
- 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbsp. tapioca starch
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- juice of 1 lemon
- Preheat the oven to 325-degrees F.
- In a large bowl, stir together the olive oil, fennel, zucchini, onion, garlic, black pepper, fennel seeds, and garlic powder. Pour onto a large baking sheet and spread evenly. Bake for 45-55 minutes, stirring once or twice. The vegetables should be browned at the edges and very soft.
- Remove the vegetables from the oven and let cool slightly - or store in the refrigerator until ready to make the soufflés. Reserve 4 zucchini rounds for decorating the tops of the soufflés.
- Put the cashews, vegetable broth, tofu, miso, nutritional yeast, tapioca starch, garlic powder, and lemon juice in a high speed blender. Process until very smooth. Now add the roasted vegetables and process again. Add a tablespoon or two of broth or water if needed to get the mixture turning. You want it to be fairly smooth, but there will still be some texture.
- Divide the mixture between 4, 8-ounce oven-safe ramekins. Tap the ramekins on the counter a few times. Decorate the tops with the reserved zucchini slices and a few fennel fronds. Place the ramekins in a Pyrex baking dish. Pour hot water into the baking dish until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the soufflés are firm to the touch. The sides will have browned a little bit. Let the ramekins sit in the water bath for a few minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack. Serve immediately or place the soufflés in the 'frige to be enjoyed later.