Friday, August 29, 2008

Braised Fennel with Olives (Page 539)


  • Date: Tuesday, August 26, 2008 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-

The choices in the Vegetables section of The Book are getting more and more suspect. I will admit my biases up front: One, fennel isn't my favorite. I don't dislike it, but I would also never choose it. Two, when I see the word "braised" next a meat word (e.g. beef, pork, chicken, lamb...) I get terribly excited. Braised meat = deliciousness. When I see the word "braised" next to a vegetable work (e.g. fennel) I get all sad inside. Smushy vegetables are not my favorite. Braising makes vegetables smushy. In the case of fennel bulbs, braising actually makes it more limp than smushy, and that's a bit better I guess, but I still wasn't too excited to make this recipe. All that said, it was better than I expected it to be. First, the method: I browned onions and garlic and then added tomatoes, tomato juice, chicken stock, wedges of fennel bulb, chopped black olives, fennel seeds, orange zest, and salt, and cooked for a long, long time (on the order of an hour). My main objection to fennel is usually the strong anisey flavor of it. However, in this recipe, the tomatoes and olives balanced the anise in a nice way. The fennel was indeed limp, which wasn't terribly appealing, but the flavor of it was good. I can certainly imagine that if I liked fennel more I might enjoy this dish, paired with a big hunk of crusty bread. Matty is fennel-neutral, and he was pretty apathetic about this recipe. It was neither here nor there for him. He ate it, but without enthusiasm, which if you know him you will know is not a good sign. I certainly wouldn't make this one again, but as braised fennel dishes go, it wasn't bad.

This recipe isn't online.

The math department is bustling with activity this afternoon, it being Friday before the first week of classes! I had three hours of course meetings this morning, and I have spent much of my afternoon writing syllabi, setting up course web pages, communicating with my teaching assistants, and getting organized. This semester I am teaching two different classes, which is a first for me. Last fall I had two classes, but they were both sections of second semester calculus. This semester though I will be teaching one class of first semester calculus (officially: Calculus I) and one class of business calculus (officially: Brief Survey of Calculus I). The material covered by the two courses is, at least in theory, similar. But the focus and level of the two classes are actually very different. It's a total of about 150 students, which is manageable enough! Classes start Tuesday, although both my classes are Monday-Wednesday-Friday, so my first day is Wednesday. I have a big long to-do list of things I would like to accomplish before classes start, so I think it is going to be a busy few days! At least this year I don't have the added stress of doing all the administrative things associated with teaching for the first time. Now I know how all the online systems work and exactly what needs to be done; I know who in the department to go to for help with various things. It's nice. Today I was helping the two new post-docs get oriented and it brought back memories of how intimidating it was to start teaching at a new university. I tried to be as helpful to them as I could be! I am feeling pretty relaxed about my teaching this semester. I am optimistic that I will have good students, and I am hopeful to not have any problems with cheating this time around. That would make me happy!

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