Awright, look. If there was a Playboy Magazine for food, this pinup above would not be a Playmate of the year, or the month; it wouldn’t make the cover, it’s no centerfold. It’s not even a cheap back-o-the-magazine advertisement snapshot. This picture of....sludge....isn’t even supposed to be here. It was Sunday evening – I had promised the one-whom-I-let-thinks-he-wears-the-pants Lava Cakes later that night – so I really just wanted to throw a light snack together for myself, saving my appetite for the good stuff. I made this ugly little snack, gave Tony a bite and he was all “get the camera!” – it’s no longer “mmm, that’s good” around here – the real test, apparently, is “get the camera!”. So, that’s how this sweaty, swarthy little snack ended up here. It’s like a slug amongst butterflies. You look at it, squint a little, pull back, and just go “oooof”. This dish following so closely after the flourless cake is like Aristotle Onassis after JFK.
So, the veggie drawer revealed cucumber and fennel; the fennel was on its last leg. NOW...I do NOT waste fennel; I adore fennel - I just typed a cuss word for emphasis – and I took it out, but eff I love fennel! So, for my light snack – clearly, fennel was going to be a player. The cucumber wasn’t faring so well either, so I decided to spare its violent descent into the toothsome garbage disposal. Surely, there was some way I could salvage these limp biscuits. So…
I don’t quite know how to explain the experience of this little dish – which can often be the case (and the delight) when it comes to dear fennel. There is the crunch of the cucumber and the softness of the sautéed fennel. There is the tang of the rice wine vinegar and lime juice – and the sweet-savoriness of the honey and sesame. The cucumber is cool, the fennel is divinely warm and buttery. And then, there is – drum roll – the anise-y, undeniably, uniquely eyes-roll-back-in-head [choir music] sumptuous flavor of fennel. Then the “GET THE CAMERA!!!” – and that’s how this sad, little, un-photogenic urchin ended up in the headlines. Just…blur your eyes a little…or something. And, ya know, just because Aristotle covered his barstools in whale genitalia – he did wear bespoke suits, so he was a quasi-sophisticate; so, think of the cucumber as the Ari of this dish and fennel as the JFK, if that helps. Scratch that, there is nothing appetizing in that analogy whatsoever. When you find yourself in a hole, first thing you do is stop digging.
Fennel Cucumber Sesame Glob While Waiting for Lava Cakes
This would be a great little side salad. Or, as designed, while waiting for lava cakes. The cool thing about this little glob is that you can adapt it to preference – if you’re not a big vinegar fan, then use more honey in the ratio; if you love sesame – do a heavy pour; just be cautious in amping up the vinegar as it's more potent.
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 T + 1 t. honey
1 T sesame oil
2 T rice wine vinegar
1 cucumber, sliced and halved
1 bulb fennel, sliced
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
Salt, pepper to taste
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. butter
In bowl, combine honey, sesame oil, rice wine and lime juice – add pinch of salt and pepper. Add cucumbers to bowl. Heat sauté pan over medium high heat – add olive oil and butter, add fennel, pinch of salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. The last 2 minutes, reduce heat to low and add sesame seeds – tossing continuously, so as not to burn the seeds.
Now, don't lose all hope - along with your breakfast, lunch, and dinner after queasy-ing your way through this smarmy post - because *looksie* at what I made for my beloved's birthday - below is a preview. This recipe has been in my family for decades. It is a Red Velvet Cake like no other - and it tastes utterly ridiculous - it makes all other food just seem plain stupid, just dumb. Gaze upon it. We had it for dinner (well, not all of it).