Caramelized Fennel, Onion and Salami Flatbread

fennel pizza slice tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

Flatbread or Pizza? And what’s the difference? I had these questions in mind when I made this pizza, er, flatbread, for an easy weeknight dinner. While the difference could simply be semantic, there is a theory that a pizza has a sauce, while flatbread doesn’t. Of course, I’ve made plenty of pizza-flatbreads with no sauce and called them white pizzas, so what do you think?

I decided to label this recipe flatbread, and for the sake of further differentiation (and extra crunch) I used a different method for cooking the dough by pre-cooking it on a skillet then flipping it before adding the toppings and finishing it in a hot oven. The result is a crisp and golden crust for the bubbly melty toppings. It’s a flatbread, and I’m sticking to it.

Flatbread with Caramelized Fennel, Onion & Salame

Finocchiana is a traditional Tuscan salami flavored with fennel seed.
Makes 1 (10-inch) flatbread

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds removed, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 ounces prepared pizza dough
4 ounces buffalo mozzarella thinly sliced
4 ounces thinly sliced fennel salame (finocchiana)
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese
Fennel pollen (optional)

Whisk 2 tablespoons oil and garlic together in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch oven-proof skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Add the fennel, onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the crushed red pepper flakes. Saute until the fennel and onion begin to turn golden brown at the edges, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.

Heat the oven broiler. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet and swirl around to coat. Roll or stretch out the dough into a 10-inch circle. Lay the dough in the skillet. Cook over medium heat until the bottom is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the dough and cook until the other side is golden brown. While the bottom is cooking, brush the top with some of the garlic oil. Sprinkle with a little salt. Lay the mozzarella over the dough. Arrange the salami over the cheese. Scatter the fennel and onions over the salami. Sprinkle parmigiano all over the pizza.

When the bottom of the pizza is golden brown, transfer the skillet to oven. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove and transfer to a cutting board. Drizzle with some of the remaining garlic oil. Sprinkle with fennel pollen, if using. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Blue Potato Salad with Fresh Mustard and Baby Fennel

mustard blue potato tastefood

Blue Potatoes, Mustard Leaves, Fennel Fronds, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Yesterday was a farmers’ market day and I purchased with my eyes. Nobby purple potatoes, sumptuous lettuce heads, spiky mustard greens and a bouquet of their brilliant yellow flowers. Baby fennel bulbs with frizzy headdresses and a kaleidescope of golf ball-sized heirloom tomatoes.


When the produce is this fresh and diverse, I let the ingredients do the talking. I made this potato salad to accompany a grilled garlic and spice rubbed tri-tip. Purple potatoes are beautiful and other worldly, resembling prehistoric stones. Their flavor is remarkably mild and creamy despite their blue tinged flesh. For this salad they were boiled until tender and tossed with handfuls of red and green mustard leaves and the frizzy tops of baby fennel. The heat of the potatoes wilted the mustard just enough to tame its pepperiness and released the anise aroma of the fennel fronds. Yellow mustard leaves added a brilliant accent – after all blue and yellow are complimentary colors.

blue potatoes tastefood

Blue Potato Salad with Fresh Mustard and Baby Fennel

The moral of this post is to embrace what you have. Mix and match aromatic herbs such as dill, parsley, mint and chervil to your taste. Any sturdy green is fair game: the warm potatoes will get to work and wilt it into suppliance.

Serves 4

2 pounds purple potatoes
2 cups spiky mustard leaves, torn in bite-size pieces
1 cup  chopped fennel fronds with leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of cold water. Add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender but not mushy. Drain and cool slightly. Cut any large potatoes in large bite-sized chunks. Place in a large bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the mustard flowers. Toss and taste for seasoning and add more salt to taste. Before serving scatter the mustard flowers over the potatoes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Skillet Pizza with Caramelized Fennel, Onions and Salame

fennel pizza tastefood

~ Skillet Pizza with Caramelized Fennel, Onion and Finocchiona Salame ~

I am a sucker for fennel. I love its licorice notes, which add a depth of flavor to any dish or food product it graces. A while back I was invited to participate in a Sandwich Showdown sponsored by Columbus Salame where the task was to create a sandwich using some of Columbus’ newest artisan products. It was then I discovered their Finocchiona salame, a dry Italian salame fragrant with fennel seed, and it instantly became my favorite. I became obsessed with creating a sandwich which highlighted the anise notes of the salame – even to the point of bartering for a precious vial of fennel pollen to use as an extra ingredient. So, I was not surprised to learn  that Columbus’ Finocchiona was a Good Foods Award winner this year. When they asked me to create another recipe for them with Finocchiona to celebrate, I was more than happy to do so. I even had some fennel pollen.

I often make homemade pizza with my pizza stone and an uber-hot oven or grill. With this recipe, I decided to try something different and used a cast-iron skillet instead. It’s another great way to fire up a pizza, and an easy technique if you don’t have a pizza stone. This recipe may be adapted to use with a pizza stone.

fennel pizza slice

Skillet Pizza with Caramelized Fennel, Onion & Finocchiona Salame

Potatoes are an optional ingredient- add or omit to your taste – they add a hearty and rustic component to the pizza.  Use your favorite prepared pizza dough for this recipe. (A recipe may be found here).

Makes 1 (12-inch) pizza.

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds removed, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 small yukon gold potato, very thinly sliced, 1/8-inch thick (optional)
8 ounces prepared pizza dough
1 mozzarella ball, about 7 ounces, thinly sliced
4 ounces thinly sliced fennel salame
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese
Chopped Italian parsley
Fennel pollen (optional)

Whisk 2 tablespoons oil and garlic together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch oven-proof skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Add fennel and onion. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and  red chili flakes. Saute until fennel brightens in color and edges of fennel and onions begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Optional step: If using using potatoes, add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Arrange potatoes in one layer in skillet. Sprinkle with salt. Cook until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Transfer to a plate.

Heat oven broiler. Stretch out the dough to a 12-inch round. Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and swirl around to coat. Lay dough in skillet. Cook over medium heat until the bottom is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip the dough. While the dough continues to cook, brush cooked side with reserved garlic oil. Sprinkle with a little salt. Lay the mozzarella over the dough. Top with potatoes if using. Scatter fennel and onions all over and then top with salame. Sprinkle parmigiano over the pizza and add extra red pepper flakes if desired. When the bottom of the pizza is golden brown, transfer the skillet to oven. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove and transfer to a cutting board. Sprinkle with parsley and fennel pollen, if using.

Salame, Figs, Fennel and a Sandwich Showdown

Salame, Figs, Fennel and a Sandwich Showdown

  Figs, Fennel Salami, Goat Cheese, Arugula, Apple-Fennel Slaw
plus 1 Mystery Ingredient

Yesterday I participated in “TopWichSF” a sandwich-showdown hosted by San Francisco’s Colombus Salame and Sean Timberlake, author of Hedonia and founder of Punk Domestics. I am a big fan of Columbus products, and was more than pleased to be 1 of 3 bloggers invited to this event to promote Columbus’ new line of Farm to Fork Naturals salame. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect, outside on the sunny terrace of Hotel Vitale’s Cafe Americano, overlooking the San Francisco Embarcadero in the company of my formidable competition, John Mitzewich and Michael Procopio.

To begin with, Sean had created a sampling of small bites he created using Columbus products for us to taste. We were then introduced to the Colombus company, and given a little back ground on its 100 year history and the intricacies of flavoring and shaping various salame. I didn’t realize how important a role the casings play in distinguishing flavor – and, apparently, size does matter.

Before we donned our aprons, we were whisked across the street via Pedi-Cabs (picture a bicycle rickshaw with crossfit drivers) to the San Francisco Ferry Building, a bastion of glorious food purveyors, restaurants and specialty shops. We were given ten dollars and ten minutes to purchase the secret ingredient of our choice which would catapult our sandwiches to the highest level and propel one of us bloggers to the winning title. We then had a brief yet scenic trip back to the hotel where we returned to our battle stations on the patio, providing extra entertainment for the restaurant patrons at the nearby tables.

In 20 fast minutes, we had to create our sandwich masterpieces and plate for 5 esteemed judges from Chow, Tasting Table, SFWeekly, YumSugar and Columbus. No time to get nervous. And no time to taste my sandwich either – the time just flew by. After the judges compared notes and tallied scores, the winner was … John! He made a smoked turkey and soppressata sandwich embelished with a pluot and pinenut relish and harissa (no wonder). Michael’s  sandwich was beyond creative with grilled turkey and soppressata with apples, slathered in  bone marrow butter. (These guys are good). As for me, I kept things fresh and made a fennel salami, fig and goat cheese sandwich topped with fennel-apple slaw and a sprinkle of fennel pollen (my secret ingredient). John generously donated his cash prize to the San Francisco Food Bank, and I think we all won by experiencing a fun and fabulous day and opportunity to meet a few friends in the blogging community and the friendly faces behind Columbus Salame.

As for my sandwich, I’ve recreated it here – mostly for you, but also for me, since I never had a chance to take a bite of the one I made yesterday. Buon appetito!

Fennel, Fig and Salami Sandwich with Goat Cheese

Many specialty stores will carry fennel pollen with their spices, but don’t despair if you can’t find it. A little sprinkle definitely adds an extra boost of flavor, but this sandwich is equally delicious without. Alternatively, add 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon to the oil in place of the pollen. Makes one sandwich.

Mustard Fennel Oil:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1/4 teaspoon fennel pollen
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Apple Fennel Slaw:
1/2 small green or fuji apple, thinly sliced in small matchsticks
1/2 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt

1 ciabatta roll

2.5 ounces soft, fresh goat cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon fennel pollen, or to taste
1 – 2 figs, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 ounces thinly sliced fennel salami
Small handful fresh arugula leaves

Make the Mustard-Fennel Oil:
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Make the Apple-Slaw:
Toss all of the ingredients together in another small bowl. Set aside.

Assemble sandwich:
Horizontally slice the ciabatta roll in half. Spread the bottom half with the goat cheese. Sprinkle with black pepper and fennel pollen. Arrange the figs over the cheese in one layer. Top with 2 layers of overlapping fennel salami slices. Top the salami with arugula, then top the arugula with some of the apple-fennel slaw (you may not need all of it). Spread the cut side of the top half of the ciabatta with the Mustard-Fennel Oil and cover the sandwich. Eat immediately.

Prosciutto Rolls with Arugula, Fennel and Mint

Prosciutto Rolls with Arugula, Fennel and Mint

This is my second recipe for Legends from Europe, using Prosciutto di San Daniele. These appetizer rolls are inspired by Vietnamese rice paper spring rolls, with a decided Italian twist. Prosciutto replaces the rice paper as the wrap, adding a salty savory component to the crunchy fresh vegetables and piquant Parmigano filling. No dip required: instead, olive oil, lemon and mint add flavor, aroma and a touch of moistness. You might want to double the batch, because these tend to get gobbled up before you can say Prosciutto di San Daniele.

Prosciutto Rolls with Arugula, Fennel and Mint
Makes 12

6 slices Prosciutto di San Danielle, halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil
Finely grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups loosely packed baby arugula leaves
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds trimmed, halved lengthwise, each half thinly sliced lengthwise
4 ounces Parmigiano cheese, shaved
1/2 cup mint leaves, torn in half if large

Place a slice of prosciutto on a work surface, short end closest to you. Lightly brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of lemon zest and a little freshly ground black pepper. Arrange 6 to 8 arugula leaves at the base. Place a few slices of fennel and Parmigiano shavings over the arugula. Top with a few pieces of mint. Roll up from the base, tucking the prosciutto tightly around the vegetables. Continue to roll, placing 1 or 2 additional arugula leaves in the fold as you roll up. Place seam side down on a platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Smoky Salmon and Fennel Chowder

~ Smoky Salmon and Fennel Chowder ~

While most of the country suffers through a heat wave, San Francisco is enjoying a typical Bay area summer, blanketed in misty fog which keeps the temperatures chilly. The skies brighten by mid-day, but the air remains fresh with wind blowing in from the Pacific. I call this chowder weather, and turn to my favorite recipe. I like to make chowder with a variety of thick-fleshed fish, but always include a portion of smoked salmon to add an extra layer of warmth in flavor. In this recipe, smoky rich salmon swims in a creamy broth infused with the delicate whiff of anise from fennel. Its warm, salty, and smoky, transporting me to the seaside. All that’s missing are the cries of seagulls and the distant sound of clanging bouys.

Smoky Salmon and Fennel Chowder
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds removed and reserved, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups water
1/2 pound russet or yukon potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds salmon filet, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound warm smoked salmon, flaked
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter in a deep skillet or soup pot. Add onion, fennel and 1 teaspoon salt. Saute until the onion and fennel soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add water and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer until potatoes are tender but not too soft, 15 minutes. Stir in salmon, cream and black pepper. Simmer until salmon is cooked through and chowder is hot, 8 to 10 minutes.
Taste for salt – depending on how salty the salmon is,  you may need more. Serve hot, garnished with chopped fennel sprigs and extra pepper.

Calamari, Fennel and White Bean Salad with Arugula

Calamari, Fennel and White Bean Salad with Arugula

This salad is the edible version of one-stop shopping. In one bowl, you will find some of the best ingredients and flavors of Italy: Cannellini beans tossed with garlic and lemon, crispy arugula and fennel, Parmesan shavings, and flash cooked calamari coated in olive oil and pepper. Put it all together and you have a light and healthy salad or a heaping topping for bruschetta worthy of a dinner party.

Calamari, Fennel and White Bean Salad with Arugula
Serves 4

For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups cooked cannellini beans (or one can, drained and rinsed)
1 small fennel bulb, ends and fronds trimmed, thinly sliced

For the calamari:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound calamari (body and tentacles), body sliced in 1/4 inch rings
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 cups arugula leaves, washed and dried
2 ounces shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Prepare the vinaigrette:
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl; set aside.

Combine the beans and fennel in a medium bowl. Pour 1/2 of the vinaigrette over the beans and toss to combine.

Prepare the calamari:
Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute 30 seconds. Add calamari and saute 2 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the beans and mix together.

Arrange arugula in a serving bowl.  Spoon beans and calamari into the center of the arugula. Drizzle arugula with remaining vinaigrette. Garnish with Parmesan shavings and chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Prosciutto Roll-ups with Arugula, Fennel and Parmesan

Prosciutto Roll-ups with Arugula, Fennel and Parmesan

Prosciutto roll-ups are the perfect appetizer. Salty strips of prosciutto wrap around leafy arugula sprigs, crispy fennel spears and nutty Parmesan shavings, binding the vegetables together in an edible cocoon basted with lemon and garlic infused oil. This is the best kind of finger food – healthy, fresh and seasonal.

Feel free to fiddle with the ingredients and take advantage of the season’s produce.  Be sure to include a leafy green, a crisp vegetable and cheese for a variety of textures. Other suggestions would include a combination of basil or mint leaves, blanched asparagus spears or crispy pear slices, and pecorino, gorgonzola or manchego cheese.

Prosciutto Roll-ups with Arugula, Fennel and Parmesan
Makes 24 roll-ups

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
12 slices of prosciutto, halved lengthwise
2 cups baby arugula leaves, washed
1 large fennel bulb, fronds removed, sliced in half lengthwise, each half thinly sliced, lengthwise
4 ounces Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese, thinly shaved
Freshly ground black pepper

Whisk oil, garlic, lemon juice and zest together in a small bowl.
Place one prosciutto slice on work surface, long side parallel to the edge. Place several arugula leaves at one end. Top with several fennel slices and a few shavings of cheese. Drizzle with a 1/2 teaspoon of the oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Starting at the filled end, roll up the prosciutto. Place seam-side down on a platter. Repeat with remaining slices. Brush the roll-ups with a little of the oil. (May be prepared up to 4 hours in advance. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature to serve.)

Spring Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Spring Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Here is another soup recipe that sings spring. Spring Chicken and Vegetable Soup is filled with seasonal vegetables including green garlic. Appearing in the markets right now, green garlic is the younger rendition of the ubiquitous papery garlic bulb. Like any youngster, this version  is sassy, sharp and full of swagger. But with a little heat, all of that bravado fades away. The green garlic softens, mellows and loses its pungency, resulting in a smooth aromatic backdrop to this light and healthy soup.

Spring Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped green garlic, white and pale green parts
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup orzo
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken meat (optional)
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add green garlic and 1 teaspoon salt. Sauté until garlic softens and its aroma loses its sharpness, 5 minutes. Add fennel and carrots and continue to sauté until the vegetables brighten in color and begin to soften, 2 minutes. Add stock, orzo and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered until orzo is cooked through and vegetables are tender, 15 – 20 minutes. Taste for salt. Stir in chicken and parsley; continue to cook until the chicken is warmed through. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

Baked Salmon with Baby Fennel, Mustard and Tarragon

Salmon Fennel tf

I love it when I can go to the farmer’s market on a Sunday and come home with …. fish. And not just any fish, but fresh-off-the-boat fish that tastes of the sea. Call me provincial European or mentally land-locked, but fresh fish on a Sunday?  At a Farmer’s Market?

Mind you, this is no ordinary farmer’s market. The San Rafael Farmer’s Market is one of the largest open air markets in California.  Each Sunday, farmers, purveyors and artisans gather in the shadow of the Marin County Civic Center, a stunning Frank Lloyd Wright construction, and sell their goods. Open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. you can easily pack a full day into several hours. Arrive early before the crowds, and enjoy a cappuccino or latte with an authentic Belgian Waffle or flaky French croissant. Then wander through the stalls and purchase seasonal vegetables and fruit, local cheese, meat and, of course, fish. It’s easy to overload on purchases and nibbles, freely offered throughout the market. Feeling tired? Take a break and listen to live music and enjoy a mid-morning snack of dim sum or artisanal pastry. Kids antsy? Give them a pony ride or a jump on a bouncy castle. If that’s worked up another appetite, finish with pizza or grilled organic sausages, falafel or panini. Then head home with your goodies, and plan your dinner.

Dinner on Sunday is always fun. Inspired by our purchases, a meal is created, usually simple, always seasonal and fresh. Which brings me to the fish. In the past 2 weeks we have twice been served gorgeous salmon filets by friends who have also been to the farmer’s market. Each time it has been so delicious and fresh that this Sunday we craved more and made a beeline for the fish stall. The salmon we purchased was so pristine, I didn’t even want to grill it and introduce any charred flavor to its buttery flesh. When we came home, I decided to marinate and bake it with fresh tarragon and baby fennel, which I also bought at the market. So, yes, we can get fresh fish at the Sunday Farmer’s Market. And, yes, we are very lucky.

Baked Salmon with Fennel, Mustard and Tarragon

The licorice flavors of the tarragon and fennel combine beautifully with fresh salmon in this easy and elegant spring dish. This recipe can easily be expanded to feed a crowd. Serves 4-5.

1 garlic clove
1/4 cup tarragon leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 pounds salmon filets, pin bones removed
2 to 3 baby fennel, bulbs thinly sliced

Smash the garlic clove with the salt in a mortar with a pestle. Add the tarragon and bruise with the pestle. Whisk in the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, zest and a small bunch of the reserved fennel fronds. Arrange salmon filets in one layer in a baking dish. Place fennel halves around the salmon. Pour the tarragon oil over the fish and fennel and spread to cover evenly. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours. Remove from refrigerator 20 minutes before baking. Bake in a preheated 350 F. (180 C.) oven until fish is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.