I've been a little preoccupied lately (perhaps you've noticed?), and my diet has suffered as a result: I haven't been eating my vegetables. Mom, don't be alarmed, but if it wasn't for the soup I buy everyday for lunch, I might have a serious vitamin deficiency. Which is why I was so relieved to read David Tanis' steamed fennel recipe in the New York Times a few weeks ago. It's quite possibly the easiest of the tasty recipes I've read in a long time, and very adaptable for a one or two-person household...on a Tuesday night...for a 9:00 PM dinner...after a long day at work. The highest compliment a girl can give.
Steamed Fennel with Red Pepper Oil
(adapted from David Tanis' A Platter of Figs and other Recipes)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 to 1 t. red pepper flakes
6 to 8 fennel bulbs
salt and pepper
In a small pan, heat oil until warm. Turn off heat and stir in red pepper flakes. Let cool and transfer to serving bowl.
Trim fennel bulbs, reserving a few fronds. Cut bulbs crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. (Cut out and discard fibrous core at bottom of bulb.) Put fennel into perforated top of a steamer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set over boiling water and steam, tightly covered, until fennel is silky but slightly crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.
Arrange on a platter, sprinkle with fronds, and surround with lemon wedges. Pass red pepper oil and salt at table.