I stood a field of waist-high fennel, her fronds shifting with the wind, tickling my wrists and forearms. This is a graceful plant - sweet and crisp and reaching up and out like palms and fingers in praise to the sky. 

I bent down to where the bulbs meet the earth and cut through the tough roots that hold the fennel at attention. Anise was all around me, brushing against my face and filling my head. This is an intoxicating kind of harvest. It engulfs you. -IK

Fennel Tart Tatin
Serves 6 to 8

4 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed of stalks and any tough leaves
½ cup crumbled fresh goat’s cheese
⅓ cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano or marjoram leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 (6 to 8 ounce) sheet puff pastry, homemade or store-bought

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Slice the fennel bulbs into 1/2-inch wedges. Blanch the fennel in boiling salted water until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Strain the fennel and reserve.

Stir together the goat’s cheese, olives, oregano, oil, fennel seeds, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Heat the sugar in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium high heat until it melts and start to turn golden. Swirl the pan for even caramelizing. Remove the pan from the heat before the caramel gets too dark (it will continue to darken as it sits) and swirl in the butter. Let the pan cool to warm.

Place the fennel over the caramel in a pretty pattern. Scatter the goat cheese mixture over the fennel.

Roll the pastry out to an 11-inch round, then place it over the fennel and tuck the edges along the inside edge of the skillet.

Bake the tart tatin until the pastry is golden and puffed, 20 to 25 minutes. Let it cool slightly, then invert the tart tatin onto a serving platter. Slice and serve.


Ian KnauerComment