I’ll be honest. This meal was the one I was looking forward to the least out of our most recent Blue Apron shipment. Crispy salmon, sign me up. Barley Risotto, sure, why not! But fennel. Eh. Fennel. I have never liked the taste of anise, which is, unfortunately, exactly what fennel reminds me of. It’s been around forever — literally before the beginning of written history. Just ask Prometheus.
Anyway, I put my faith in this perfectly package meal, and started prepping the ingredients. While thoroughly working through this step, I learned that fennel would be used four different ways in our dinner. One little flowering plant, served in four different ways.
I threw two of the four parts of the fennel into a pot with some olive oil and diced onion, and stirred until they were fragrant. Then, we added in the barley and water, and let it simmer until it turned into, well, risotto. Meanwhile, I toasted the chopped walnuts, and mixed them with fresh parsley, tarragon, fennel fronds (fennel #3) and lemon juice to create a fresh herb and walnut salad.
Then, the salmon. We added salt and pepper to each side, and simply cooked it in some olive oil. When the barley had turned into risotto, we added the leaves of brussel sprouts, lemon juice, and generous amounts of salt and pepper. We topped the dish with fennel pollen (fennel #4) and then, we dug in.
The two parts of the fennel that were cooked in the risotto — the stems and the bulb — lost most of their anise flavor. Unfortunately, I didn’t dice the bulb into small enough pieces, so it was still a little much, but the barley risotto was inventive and, due to my heavy hand, perfectly salted. The salmon was expertly crisped, and simple in flavor, accented only by the soft, herbaceous flavors of the parsley, tarragon and lemon.
This dish wasn’t the best of our Blue Apron experiments (I mostly blame the fennel), but hey – it sure does look pretty on a plate, and that’s just about half the battle.