Pasta with Sausage and Fennel

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I’ve never been a huge fennel fan, and for just that reason, I planted two fennel plants in my garden. I figured that if I could harvest it personally, I could figure out how to showcase its unique flavor.

Ideally, if one loves the anise/licorice flavor, fennel is eaten raw, shaved in a salad, for example. But I thought that gently sautéed and caramelized in olive oil, with pasta and sausage, would still highlight this unique plant properly.

Harvesting the fennel is just a matter of pulling it out of the ground. I read that the fennel bulb should be the size of a tennis ball.


The recipe is not mine – I found it on Epicurious.com, and adapted it slightly.

Orecchiette with Sweet Italian Sausage and Fennel

1 fennel bulb, about 7 ounces, plus some fronds
12 ounces orecchiette
Salt
Olive oil
16 ounces sweet Italian sausage
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
White wine
Freshly grated Parmesan


Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside, along with 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sausage until lightly browned and cooked just through.


Remove the sausage to a bowl and set aside.

Add the fennel slices and saute them in the remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel softens, about 5 minutes.

Continue to cook, adding a little wine as necessary to prevent the fennel from sticking to the skillet. You might have to do this a few times. The resulting fennel should be soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes more.

Add the cooked pasta and reserved liquid to the skillet, along with the sausage. Stir well and let cook, until the liquid has reduced to a creamy sauce, about 4 minutes.


Add Parmesan and season again if necessary.


Also sprinkle some of the fronds over the pasta.

The fennel still reminded me of Pernod, which I dislike, but it was better slightly caramelized and cooked in the wine.

The Parmesan wasn’t in the original recipe, but I felt like it needed cheese.

Heavy cream would also be a fabulous addition!

Summer Corn Chowder

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Summer is not my favorite season. But without a second house somewhere in the northern climes, I must endure heat and humidity from May through September.

There are a few good things that I do appreciate – tomatoes, basil, and zinnias. Lots of zinnias to add color to my house. They make me happy.
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Although I don’t grow it myself, corn is readily available from local farms, and I’ve really come to appreciate the humble corn on the cob since living in the Midwest.

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Which brings me to this simple corn chowder that I made with extra corn I had on hand.

Corn and Chicken Chowder

1 small chicken
4 cobs of corn
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups, approximately, chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

Poach the chicken using basic ingredients, like onion, celery, carrots, and bay leaves. After 1 1/2 hours, remove the chicken from the broth and let cool. If you need a tutorial on poaching chicken, check out chicken poach.
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Strain the broth and cook the corn in it. Remove the corn and let cool.


If you have lots of broth leftover, let it reduce gently on the stove.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion, red bell pepper and celery, and saute for about 5 minutes.
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Stir in the garlic, and after about 30 seconds, add 2 cups of broth, and then the cream. Let the mixture cook over low heat for about 15 minutes.


At that time, remove the meat from the chicken bones, then add it to the soup.
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To add the corn, simply hold the corn cobs on the edge of the pot, and using a small knife, cut parallel to the cobs, cutting the kernels loose.
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Stir the soup well, and add the seasoning. Taste for salt and pepper.
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If you wanted to make a Southwestern soup, you could add cumin, coriander, a little ancho chile paste or green chiles, maybe chorizo, and lots of fresh cilantro. Normally this is what I would have done, since my tastes tend toward a spicier direction.
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I use thyme a lot in fall and winter cooking, and I probably decided to use it in this soup because I’m subconsciously wishing it was cooler outside!
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Oh well, only one more hot month to go. And I still have my zinnias.

note: You could also add cooked potatoes to this soup, or include white beans, even with the chicken. Heartier and healthier!

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