Recipe: Zucchini Sautéed with Fennel, Anchovies, and Mint
I went all Arabo-Siculi on myself this week after finding tiny-as-can-be zucchini and fennel at the Union Square Greenmarket. It’s baby vegetable time again, still pre-tomato, so all is still in shades of green, from pale to profoundly deep.
I came up with a quick sauté with surprisingly complex flavor, using toasted fennel seed and cumin, anchovies, fresh hot green chili, and mint. Toasting and then grinding fennel and cumin seeds together produces a deep, sensual aroma, the whole being, in my culinary opinion, greater than the sum of the parts. And then if you go ahead and layer on anchovy and mint, well, then you’re really cooking with Sicilian benzina. I hope you enjoy this. It’s great served along side a boned-out grilled leg of lamb (perhaps marinated in garlic, rosemary, and red wine).
Zucchini Sautéed with Fennel, Anchovies, and Mint
(Serves 5 or 6)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large spring bulb onion, chopped, using much of the tender green stem
2 very tiny fennel bulbs, cut into small dice
1 fresh medium hot green chili (jalapeño is a good choice), thinly sliced
About 10 baby zucchini, cut into small cubes
¼ teaspoon each, fennel and cumin seeds, lightly toasted and then ground in a mortar and pestle.
4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, minced
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
A small handful of fresh spearmint leaves, cut into chiffonade.
In a very large, shallow sauté pan, heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high flame. Add the onion, fennel bulb, green chili, and zucchini, and sauté everything together until it’s just starting to brown. Add the spices and the anchovy and a sprinkling of salt, and continue sautéing just until the vegetables are tender and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, and pour everything into a serving bowl. Add the mint and a drizzle of fresh olive oil, and toss gently. Serve hot or at room temperature.