Fennel is amazing to me. Witnessing thin, wispy seeds turn into crispy, round, juicy bulbs has been one of my favorite things in the garden this season. When I'm out there watering or just puttering, I always peek under the feathery fronds to make sure all is well in the fennel row. They're such perfect little packages of flavor.
In fact, I cherish those crunchy little guys so much that I took some time to figure out how to use the first baby bulbs. Fennel risotto? Braised? Grilled? Pizza? Yes, a good starting point for the first fennel bulb. I needed to thin some out so that the others could size up. A pizza is a good use of a tiny ingredient.
And, "interesting spices?" Remember how I picked up some spices at Penzey's in NYC in February? One of them is Charnushka, or nigella sativa (or "black cumin") -- which I'm currently growing out back (still a baby plant). The other is the strongly camphorous-smelling Kala Jeera, which seemed so overpowering at first that I wasn't sure how to use it. On pizza, however, after some super high heat roasting, it mellowed nicely. Together, the two spices simply lent an exotic, warm note that worked really well with the asparagus pesto from the last post.
Baby Fennel, Asparagus Pesto & Interesting Spices
basic pizza recipe + asparagus pesto + cheese: 1/2 grated mozz, 1/2 grated gruyere + thinly sliced baby fennel + kala jeera + nigella sativa + olive oil & salt on the crust. Bake until pretty + garnish with grated parmesan + fennel fronds. Serve with lemon wedge.