A mere two days prior to my departure from my summer home of Washington D.C. and I find myself confronted with a rather barren refrigerator. Assuredly, seeing as I seek to schlep as little food as possible with me back to Madison, the fridge’s emptiness excites rather than terrifies me—the emotion I normally feel when staring into a foodless fridge abyss (see the first photo in this post).
The contents of my fast-diminishing DC refrigerator include two premade green smoothies (since I shipped my blender back to Vassar today), two servings of homemade granola, salad fixings for Saturday’s travel lunch, peanut butter, and a smattering of condiments. My freezer has provided me with the bulk of my nourishment this past week, offering up the homemade veggie burgers and buns, tamales, edamame-wild rice bites, and date-nut truffles I’ve accumulated during the summer’s kitchen endeavors.
In the last days of my stay in DC, I’ve had to employ a bit of culinary creativity when combining the various remaining items in my fridge and freezer to form a satisfying meals. This simple yet deeply flavored side dish functions as one product of that creativity and, paired with two of those aforementioned tamales, constitutes a lovely end-of-summer dinner. A glowingly golden mixture of succulent fennel and dates drizzled in an acidic, umami dressing creates a classically sweet-and-salty summer side dish, ideal for enjoying on the patio ‘neath the slowly setting sun. An improvised recipe at its finest.
Caramelized Fennel and Dates in Miso-Mustard Dressing—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 large or 2 small bulbs of fennel, trimmed, cored, and diced
2 dates, pitted and chopped
2 tsp olive or flax oil
1 tsp miso
1/2 tsp mustard
To make the dressing, whisk together the olive or flax oil, miso, and mustard in a small bowl. Set aside.
In a medium-sized skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced fennel and sauté for about 5 minutes until starting to soften. Add the dates, reduce the heat to low, and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the fennel is soft and caramelized.
Serve the fennel warm with the dressing drizzled on top.
Until next time, Ali.