Growing up with Depression-Era grandmothers, our household was rather fastidious about waste. All parts of the animal were eaten and I learned early to appreciate things like gizzards, chitlins, and chicken hearts. When I squeal over such delicacies as an adult now living in Brooklyn, most people think I'm affecting epicurean pretention rather than reflecting my rural roots.
But this isn't a post about liver. In fact, it's a recipe for a vegan pesto that has little to do with organ meats other than the ability to make use of what would otherwise be waste: the fennel frond. That feathery part attached to the more desirious fennel bulb that appears to be just a sort of decoration. A way to lure you into petting and stroking its fine foliage and then discarding it like a cheap date into the compost heap. This recipe celebrates that otherwise neglected part of the vegetable and makes it into a savory spread, perfect for your favorite BK17 bread. It can also be used to dress roasted beets, potato salad, or you can just slather it all over your next lucky romantic encounter. They'll feel more appreciated. Really, they will.
2 c. fennel fronds
1 fennel bulb
3 large spring onions
3 garlic cloves
6 sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 c. walnuts (pine nuts or pistachios would work well too!)
1/4 c. nutritional yeast
3/4 c. EVOO
1 lemon juiced
2 TB apple cider vinegar
salt to taste
Soak and rinse the fennel fronds in cold water while you toast the nuts on 350F for about 10 minutes. When the skins start to peel, remove nuts and let cool while the fennel fronds are draining.
Coat the fennel bulb and onions with olive oil and put on the grill. Cook the onions for about 4-5 minutes, the fennel for 12 (six minutes each side) or until the flesh reveals attractive grill marks. Remove the core and coarsely chop. Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and grind until you reach desired consistency. Add more or less olive oil and salt, depending on your desired use of the pesto.