Sliced, drizzled with olive oil and roasted in the oven, our delicious lemons add tartness and aroma to the sweet fennel from the garden. Together they become an irresistible treat…
I took out the last fennel bulbs, some large, others not fully grown, yet starting to bloom. Our two trees are still brimming with large and beautiful lemons which I have to use up, store and preserve as the days get warmer. Soon we won’t have any more juicy fresh lemons, so I have to freeze as much juice as I can, and of course made more lemon curd and marmalade. I will also plan to make the unusual lemonade my friend Barbara Abdeni-Massad has in her spectacular book Mouneh: Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry; I hope I will post my version of her lemonade soon.
In the meantime I thought that fennel and lemons would be nice if roasted together, and I was absolutely right! No need for a proper recipe; just slice the finocchio, either horizontally or lengthwise, depending on the size of the bulb. Mine were either too large or tiny, so I had to improvise.
I lined the baking tray with parchment paper; this way I don’t have to worry if the vegetables caramelize and stick at the bottom. I arranged the fennel slices in one layer and drizzled them with olive oil; you can sprinkle with salt if you like, but I prefer to do that later when I serve the roasted vegetables. Top each fennel slice with a lemon slice and drizzled again with a few drops of olive oil.
I filled two trays: one with the more stringy pieces of the large fennel bulb, and the other with the small fennels that I simply halved lengthwise. I roasted both trays together in the convection oven at about 400ºF (200º C) until nicely browned on top and bottom, about 25 minutes. I don’t remember exactly how long it took, but it is very important that you change the position of the pans after 15 minutes or so. Make sure both the top lemon slices and the fennel are nicely cooked, preferably caramelized.
Serve them warm or at room temperature. We ate them with xynomyzithra, the delicious slightly sour ricotta-like fresh cheese from Crete that we love. Feta would be nice too with homemade bread, of course.
I think that roasted fennel and lemon slices will make a perfect side dish for grilled fish or meat, but I have no more fennel bulbs to try the combination. Next year…