You will get no tastier starter dish for 5 minutes of your time and $4.00 of cost than this roasted combination. Better than cheese and crackers before dinner when guests are coming over, or even if it’s just you. The fennel roasts in about 30-35 minutes at 400 degrees. It was chopped and tossed in a bowl with olive oil and paprika, spread on a sheet pan, and then topped with Kalamata olives and salt. That’s it. After roasting, the fennel takes on the earthiness of the paprika, and the olives give just enough of a briney fruit contrast (and some needed fat) to make this starter completely satisfying. Amuse your palate with fewer carbs, more nutrition, and far less expense than the usual options.
If you’ve got good paprika, use it here. It’s flavor you are after. I tried some organic regular (not smoked) paprika from Mountain Rose Herbs in Oregon that was given to me as a gift. I usually buy my spices in bulk at local markets since it’s more likely to be fresher and have better flavor that way. And it’s considerably cheaper. Paprika should have some taste, it’s not just a for coloring.
Unlike most roasted then refrigerated vegetables, this one is good rewarmed or cold should you have any left over. It will even make yesterday’s dry chicken breast moist and flavorful. Spread it over your chicken slices or cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and toss everything together.
My fennel bulbs (actually it’s just the base of the plant) and Kalamata olives came from Trader Joe’s. If you can get organic fennel from your grocery store, even better.
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Give your fennel and rinse and cut off the lower ½ inch off the base. Slice the bulb lengthwise for easy handling. I chop mine into ½ inch rings all the way up to the feathery fronds. Save those for garnish. They are too delicate to roast with the fennel and will burn. You may have to cut out some of the coarse stem in the center of the lower rings.
Place the half-rings and little green rounds that came from the top of the bulb in a bowl with 1-2 T of olive oil, 1 ½ – 2 T of paprika, and toss to coat.
Line the bottom of your sheet pan with parchment paper (this is optional but it makes for easy clean up). Spread the fennel out on the parchment. Remove the number of Kalamata olives you plan on using from the jar or container. Leave the brine in with the remaining olives so they keep. Give those you are going to use a little shake in a colander to remove the excess brine, but don’t rinse them (if you decide to skip this step, that’s ok–just try to keep drops of brine on the sheet pan to a minimum). Distribute the olives around the fennel.
Add sea salt or salt flakes to the top of the vegetables.
Roast for about 20 minutes and check to see how they are cooking. You can give them a toss if you like but it’s unnecessary. Check again in 5-10 minutes until cooked to your preference. Taste a fennel ring to determine if the pan is ready to come out. I don’t like mine crispy or overdone. The timing will depend on how thick your fennel rings were cut. Garnish with the reserved fennel fronds.
This starter is delicious warm or at room temperature. It can be cooked and sitting out ready to eat when guests arrive if you need your oven to start another dish.