My sister is given access through her work to a CSA’s leftover veggies, and gives me the vegetables since she is less a fan of cooking than I am (I always make sure to cook her food in return). The wonderful yet challenging part of a CSA, is that vegetables often come in large quantities as they come into season, leaving you to try and think of as many ways to eat a particular piece of produce as possible. This week, springing into season, was the green, spikey fennel.
Fennel is one of those vegetables I am never quite sure how to handle. It has a strong and sort of bitter licorice flavor- and since I’ve never been a fan of licorice in candy form, its even harder to be into it in a vegetable format. The fact that I tend to associate the licorice/fennel flavor with sweet foods presents an even bigger challenge.
I decided to try and use fennel on a pizza, with other foods that toe the line between sweet and savory. After thinking about the ingredients I had, and those I thought would go well, I decided on a mild cashew cheese, golden caramelized onions, and mushrooms sautéed in white wine. A quick note on pizza dough- I use a premade one from Trader Joe’s, just because it’s fairly cheap and saves me a few minutes of cleaning flour off the counters. Feel free to do the same or make your own- there are many recipes on the internet, most of which are vegan.
In addition, I roasted the fennel in some thyme to try and calm the fennels flavor. The results of the final pizza were surprising- not only did the pizza not taste like licorice, but the sweeter flavors I had chosen melded together into a rich, savory yet mild, hinting of sweetness, masterpiece.
Fennel and Caramelized Onion Pizza
- 1 batch of pizza dough, homemade or store bought
- 2 onions, sliced into half moons
- 2 fennel heads, cut into thin slices
- 5 cloves of garlic, gently crushed
- 5 crimini mushrooms, sliced
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1 tsp of thyme (split into ½ tsp and ½ tsp)
- 1 cup cashews
- Juice from 1 lemon
- ¼ cup water
- Salt, pepper and oil as needed
1. Cover the cashews in water and leave to soak. Make sure that they spend at least 30 minutes soaking.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a baking pan, toss the fennel in a little olive oil, some salt, the 5 cloves of garlic, and ½ tsp. of dried thyme. Roast the fennel for 20 minutes until them are browning and crunchy. Remove the garlic (this will go in the cashew cheese) and set aside. Set the oven to 425.
3. In the meantime, begin to caramelize onions by cooking with a little oil on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. This is a time intensive process, and will take at least 20 minutes or up to an hour. Cook until they are soft, golden and slightly sweet tasting. Set aside.
4. In a small sauce pan, heat 1 tsp of oil on high and add the mushrooms along with ½ tsp. of thyme. Cook for about 2 minutes before pouring in ¼ cup of white wine cook, stirring often, until all the wine has been evaporated. Set aside.
5. Drain the cashews from everything aside from ¼ cup water. In a blender, add the 5 cloves of roasted garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, to taste. Blend until smooth- you might have to stop and scrape down the sides a few times as the mixture will be quite thick.
6. Stretch the pizza dough onto a pan- you might need a little oil on the bottom. Assemble the pizza by first adding a thin layer of cashew cheese, next the onions and mushrooms. Top it off with the crispy fennel and add spots of the remaining cheese
7. Bake the pizza at 425 degrees for 15-20 min, until the bottom of the crust is hard and slightly golden.