Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Most days I [try to] forget that I'm in my sixth decade, but when I kept coming across that head of fennel in my vegetable bin and couldn't, for the life of me, remember why I'd bought it, the prolonged senior moment just underscored that I am, in fact, getting older. I write a weekly menu, but there was no clue about why I'd bought the fennel. Then I grabbed my new Ina Garten cookbook, How Easy Is That?, for the recipe for roasted shrimp with feta and there it was!

This is just the second time I've ever cooked with fennel, but it is fast becoming a favorite vegetable. My new cookbook is just as quickly starting to look like my other favorites. I refer to them as my "scratch and sniff" books since the pages tend to be splattered with evidence of my culinary endeavors. This page has some "good olive oil" blots on it.

Serves 4
4 tbs good olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups medium diced fennel
1 tbs minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/4 cup dry white wine (I had to open a split of champagne)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (use the fire roasted ones, yum!)
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbs Pernod (sorry, had to omit; the fennel took care of the anise flavor)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 lb (16-20) peeled and cleaned shrimp, tails on (I had colossal, so used them)
5 oz good Feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (I had 3/4 cup Panko, so used it)
3 tbs minced fresh parsley (had to substitute fennel fronds)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 2 tbs of the olive oil in a 10 or 12 inch heavy, oven-proof skillet over medium-low heat. Add the fennel and saute for 8-10 minutes, until the fennel is tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the wine and bring it to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes with the liquid, tomato paste, oregano, Pernod (if you have it), salt, and pepper to the skillet. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 - 15 minutes.

Arrange the shrimp, tails up, in one layer over the tomato mixture in the skillet. Scatter the feta evenly over the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, and lemon zest with the remaining 2 tbs olive oil and sprinkle over the shrimp.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked and the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the shrimp and serve hot with the remaining lemon cut into wedges.
I hope my house smells like this for the next few days! From the moment I tossed the ingredients for the sauce with the sauteed fennel and garlic, my mouth began to water in anticipation. Words can't do justice to this brilliant dish. The saltiness of the feta is the perfect foil for the sweet, fennel-laced tomato sauce. Those fire-roasted diced tomatoes are truly special because I do not care for diced, canned tomatoes and I loved these. I strongly recommend using the Panko in lieu of fresh bread crumbs because the crunch is a wonderful contrast to the creaminess of the cheese. DSO and I made many happy, yummy noises as we ate the shrimp, accompanied by some leftover polenta which I'd sauteed in a smattering of that good olive oil. In the happiest of coincidences, DSO had brought home a piece of baklava (thank goodness official weigh in day is 3 days away). I thought that was a lovely ending to our Mediterranean-inspired dinner. Ina has done it again; the woman never misses!


  1. "Good olive oil" stains and scratch and sniff cookbooks...you crack me up!

    The shrimp dish looks great. And I don't even like fennel! I can see how the panko crumbs would give a nice crunch. They add a nice visual to your dish too.

  2. WOW - this is fabulous. I'd definitely like to try it. Love the way you presented it...looks like a paella.

  3. Hi Arlene,

    It's Jess. I recently started checking out your blog. Great recipes.... I’m looking forward to trying some out - although with a 9 month old crawling all around my kitchen, cooking is not as easy as it once was. Miss you ;-)

  4. Jess, so good to hear from you! The picture on our Christmas card was, by far, the most beautiful we received. What a beautiful baby. I don't doubt that your time for cooking is limited between the Big M and the big boy. Do what I used to do: cook on Sunday and eat for the week. Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. XoX

  5. Arlene you won't believe it but I was munching on a piece of raw fennel bulb when I came over to read your blog. My husband loves to have sliced raw fennel after a big meal as he claims "it helps him digest." I've only recently begun to cook fennel, and usually in a fish dish, as it does seems to compliment the flavor of fish so well. This recipe sounds really tasty! I love shrimp and I can imagine how good this combination is.

  6. OMGoodness Arlene, This is a work of art! I keep staring at it. Beautiful, beautiful dish it sounds outstanding, i want to make this, maybe for New Years...Yum!

  7. Scratch and sniff cookbooks are the best ones! This sounds like a winning recipe. Merry Christmas Arlene!


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