Three Genius Things* on the Last Day of April:
*Spoiler: The third one is a fennel recipe.
First, a genius stunt, witnessed. So you know how sometimes when you’re on the phone with your buddy and you put them on speaker so you can check Instagram? Well, yesterday evening as I sat on the patio of my neighborhood chicken spot, I witnessed a stranger perform the ultimate version of that move. This dude - who is now my personal hero - pulled up to the curb in front of the restaurant and flashed me a quick smile from the driver's seat. He was clearly on the phone in what seemed like a fairly heated conversation, but I was busy minding my own business.
That is, until I saw him put the call on speaker through his car stereo, crank the volume up to high, roll all the windows down, and sprint inside the restaurant to order food. The guy on the other end of the line never even had a clue and was still rambling when my hero came rushing back out to the car to rejoin the convo, which he did only after having a quick laugh with me to celebrate having pulled it off. The levels of scammery this dude was on were beyond and I am inspired to say the least.
Second, a genius book of essays titled A Manual for Cleaning Ladies by, Lucia Berlin. Have mercy this was an intense read - painfully vulnerable, brash, and bittersweet to the very last drop. Though maybe part of that was knowing all along the author didn’t get her flowers during her lifetime. Even though I kept putting it down because it was making me (more) depressed, I could never stay away for long. I had to break it up with the first and second Harry Potter books just to finish, but it was worth it. Should’ve known what I was getting into taking a recommendation from my partner in cholesterol, because she stays on that deep shit and knows I do too. Anyway, the book and it’s author are brilliant. This New Yorker piece of hers is lovely as well.
Third, as promised, a genius method for cooking fennel. This non-recipe recipe is shockingly - nay, absurdly! stupidly! - good for putting in your mouth. And when I tell you it came out of nowhere?? I mean it smacked me upside the head. Before, my stance was somewhere between tolerance and dislike. I enjoy the flavor of fennel seeds, but raw fennel tasted too much like licorice for me. This method, however, turns a humble hunk of fennel into candy with perfectly charred edges and a frico parmesan crust. What started with me trying to use up one stray fennel bulb ended up with me buying eight more the very next day and eating them all by myself.
This is a really excellent thing to make when you feel like your meal needs another veggie, but you want to do as little as possible to make that happen. It’s also a good one for those times when you have a bulb of fennel to use up...also also whenever there is a bulb of fennel available for purchase at your local grocery. You get it. Real talk though, I’ve been cooking my tush off lately and have a genuine bounty of things I’m dying to share but this recipe could not, would not wait. If you’re on the fence about fennel, you best not either!
Roasted Fennel with Parmesan, adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4 to 6 as a side
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 fennel bulbs, fronds removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup Parmesan, finely grated
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place chopped fennel in a 9x13 baking dish or quarter sheet pan, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Spread chopped fennel in a single layer and coat with Parmesan. Bake until the fennel is fork-tender, the edges are singed, and the parmesan is crispy and brown, about 45 minutes. Try not to eat it all straight from the pan; serve with lemons for squeezing.