Caramelized Fennel on Herbed Polenta Recipe
A creamy, herb-flecked polenta spiked with Pecorino, and topped with caramelized slabs of pan-seared fennel. A favorite recipe from Sarah Britton's beautiful My New Roots cookbook.
Like many of you, I'm a fan of Sarah Britton. Her site My New Roots is a beautiful blend of inspired cooking and nutritional insight, punctuated with genuine positivity. I'm sitting here with her eagerly-awaited first cookbook - a substantial hardback filled with her signature plant-based recipes and vibrant photos. I've had the manuscript for months, and expressed my enthusiasm with a quote on the inside cover. I could have written a lot more if I'd been allowed to edge in on Sara Forte or Deborah Madison's endorsement space ;) Here's what I wrote, "My New Roots is beautiful proof that eating with nutrition in mind need not be a compromise. This is an unabashedly enthusiastic riff on the food-as-medicine approach to cooking and eating. Sarah's playful and encouraging voice is infectious; you get the sense that she is waiting on the other side of each recipe to give you a high five." I think the high five is the key, and part of what I love so much about Sarah's work. At a time when many food choices work against us, Sarah wants your food and cooking to work for you. And she works hard at communicating the hows and whys - riding that line of inspiration and coaching, with the just the right amount of nutritional context. There are a lot of great recipes in her book, but I cherry-picked this gem to highlight. It is a creamy, herb-flecked polenta spiked with Pecorino, and topped with caramelized slabs of pan-seared fennel.
Caramelized Fennel on Herbed Polenta
HS Note: This recipe serves two. You might as well double or triple the recipe for more servings, or easy leftovers. Community Grains sells a beautiful polenta integrale - it takes more cooking time (up to three hours) but the resulting polenta is rich, creamy, and flecked with the signature red of this heritage corn varietal.
2 to 3 cups / 450 to 675 ml vegetable broth or water, as needed
1/2 cup / 85 g organic, non-GMO polenta
fine sea salt
1 large fennel bulb
knob of ghee or clarified butter
2 tablespoons raw fennel seeds
1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup, or to taste
1/4 cup / 5g chopped mixed herbs, such as dill, chives, parsley
1/4 cup / 27 g grated Pecorino Romano cheese
cold-pressed olive oil
herb flowers for garnish
Heat the vegetable broth in a large saucepan until simmering. Slowly pour in the polenta in a steady stream, whisking all the while to prevent clumping. Add a few pinches of salt. Stir constantly for a couple minutes; then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for 30 to 45 minutes (read the label on your polenta for cooking time approximations). If the polenta becomes too thick, add more broth or water and whisk until smooth The polenta is cooked when you rub a small amount of it between your fingers and it is no longer gritty, but instead creamy and smooth.
While the polenta is cooking, cut the fennel bulb into thin vertical slices (from the top to the base).
Heat the ghee in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the fennel slices to the skillet, making sure that they all come into contact with the surface of the skillet (not overlapping). Sprinkle with sea salt. Do not stir or move the fennel until it is golden on the bottom, 5 to 7 minutes. When all the pieces have browned, flip them onto the uncooked sides. When the underside has also browned, add a sprinkling of fennel seeds and the maple syrup, and let cook for 1 minute. Toss to coat, transfer the fennel to a plate. Season with more salt if needed.
Add the chopped herbs and grated cheese to the polenta, and give it a final stir. Whisk in a little more broth or water if necessary.
To serve, scoop a portion of polenta onto a plate, then arrange the caramelized fennel on top. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with herb flowers if available.
From My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season by Sarah Britton.
Prep time: 5 minutes - Cook time: 45 minutes
Post Your Comment
Yum! This was delicious; thanks for sharing! Although the pictures ARE indeed beautiful, it's funny to me how many people comment that it "looks good" but don't necessarily try the recipe. Here's to more time in the kitchen! :)
I made this last week, my husband loved it. I made it again last night with a friend over, this time took some liberties with it (Added fresh peas and fresh corn) and doubled the recipe. Huge hit again. It's a lovely combination of flavors, easy to throw together, and I can change it up seasonally as we go through the year. It's a keeper.
I made this for our dinner a couple of nights ago - absolutely delicious. I was lucky enough to get some freshly picked small fennel bulbs from a neighbouring retired elderly Italian market gardener who often has surplus produce of the highest quality. My husband hasn't liked fennel till tasting this recipe (after 43 years of me trying to convince him of its scrumptiousness) so thank you finally helping to convince him and for a yummy meal.
That caramelized fennel looks absolutely delicious!
This is a gorgeous dish that I have already made and loved. I love your representation here. Your styling of the dish is gorgeous. Sara's book has quickly become one of my favorites, as your two books are.
Heidi, This looks beautiful. I am a fan of both of your work. How do you get your hands on raw fennel seeds? I am guessing this is not the same thing as the dried ones available in the spice aisle. Thanks!
HS: Hi Rachel! Those are the ones - the dried ones, untoasted. :)
Hi Heidi! Such a beautiful recipe - I had never heard of Sarah but so glad I know now. Looks like a great cook book and a wonderful approach to food. I shared this on my blog here as part of the "Friday Feeling" Link Love post. Great photos and inspiration as always! Thanks
I have Sarah's cookbook and have tried many recipes with great success. It's one of my favorites (up there with yours, of course, Heidi!) I had not marked this one to try, but I did after reading your blog post. This might be the best use of fennel, ever. Which is great because I get it pretty often in my CSA share. By the way, I used coconut oil to caramelize it, instead of the dairy.
OMG this looks heavenly. I am definitely making this when I head home for the States this summer!
I LOVE love, love, Sarah B! YAY!!
Mmm I haven't had fennel a lot, but I do love that flavour that you just "cannot put your finger on" and it looks absolutely gorgeous as well :D Thank you so much for sharing, I definitely want to improve my cooking skills when it comes to polenta :) x
I've been following Sarah's blog for a long time. I love her approach to food and the ingredients she uses. You did a beautiful job with her recipe!
I love a bowl filled with creamy cheesy polenta, but hardly ever make it as my family did not feel quite the same, I'm slowly steering them my way and this version may just do the trick! I love the idea of topping the polenta with caramelized fennel. And, I love Sarah's blog, thanks so much for highlighting one of her book's delicious recipes. sweetgreenkitchen.com
I am huge fan of Sarah Britton! I cook many of our weekly meals from her new cookbook. I love cooking vegetables for the variety and she makes everything taste fantastic. Her wonderful personality shines through. For those worried about purchasing the book due to the dairy and egg inclusions, I wouldn't worry - they are easy to omit and never seem to be star of the dish.
Funny- Giada diLaurentiis just had an entire episode on fennel, and she even baked a cake with it. This recipe looks fabulous, and even good to make for company or a fancy lunch to take to work! Thank you very much.--Michelle*
hello heidi, i'm another one of many who have been having a huge fun trying recipes from the MNR bookbook and leaning a ton in the process. this dish looks amazing, will have to remember it when/if i happen across some fresh fennel bulbs at my local green market.. (they are not exactly common over here, and to be honest i'm not a huge fan of fennel in general but my curiosity and your beautiful description have won me over :))
Usually fennel doesn't do much for me, but this recipe has me rethinking my aversion. It looks incredibly delicious. And I love the beautifully simple photos! x Maja
Polenta is not usually my favorite grain to cook with but between you and Sarah and this recipe, I think I can be convinced. This is a stunning dish. And I cannot wait to get my hands on Sarah's book when I'm back in the US this summer!
Having an Italian dad and family it means we're always eating polenta but I have to say I've never actually thought of having it like this. Normally we just have it fried and cut into slices, looks like a pizza in a way! Great recipe too! Love fennel :D
I've been following Sarah's blog for years, but I noticed that in her book - I've only seen some previews and reviews - she uses more dairy products and eggs, almost never involved in her blog. It's the only issue stopping me by buying her book :/