Apple, Fennel & Olive Appetizer with Rosemary Bread

Going food shopping today, I came to the conclusion that it’s not necessary to try to impress people with unusual dishes or unconventional food combinations. Not all the time, anyway. Until then, I hadn’t actually realised I was thinking that way, even though I am a very visually oriented person when it comes to food. What steered my thoughts into another direction? A simpler way of life.

I just came back from a three-day Midweek Time Out Relaxation vacation. No phones, computers, tv, radio, nothing. Mostly idyllic silence – apart from the twittering of birds – and a feeling of serenity. And very, very good food. Vegetarian food. Incredibly simple dishes made from vegetables grown on-site, everything organic. Lots of cream used as well, not exactly conducive to losing weight, but hey, for three days I can live with that.

This was the second time I took this Time Out Relaxation vacation, the food was just as good the first time, but even then, the food junkie in me kept thinking that it would be even better if it were presented nicely. Of course, I’m aware that is totally superficial, but I have my faults… I decided to try to recreate or adapt some of the dishes we had, only I wanted to make them more presentable, because in my not so simple everyday life I like my food to appeal to the eye as well.

This appetizer was served in a different combination – raw fennel, oranges, olives and what I believe was linseed oil. I couldn’t get linseed oil, not even in our organic supermarket, so I went for pumpkin seed oil. It has a lovely green tinge, and its nutty flavour goes really well with the other ingredients. Also, I sautéed the fennel because that makes it a little milder, then decided to throw in the apples as well just for a little bit before the fennel was completely done.

I’ve been meaning to try out a friend’s rosemary bread recipe, and thought it would go well both with the appetizer as well as for dipping into the pumpkin seed oil. It did.

Best to start out with making the rosemary bread, that way it can be ready the same time as the appetizer. Start on the appetizer once the bread’s in the oven.

Rosemary Bread

500 g flour (I used spelt flour)
1 tsp salt
1 pack dried yeast (9 g)
300 ml warm water
2 garlic cloves, crushed (garlic press)
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary

Combine flour, salt, yeast and water in a food processor and mix until you have a smooth dough. Rest for 45 minutes in a warm place, then add the garlic and rosemary, knead well so both get distributed evenly.

Form the dough into any shape you prefer – I formed a roll and twisted it – and place on a baking sheet that is either oiled or covered with baking paper.

Bake for 25 minutes at 230°C / 450°F. When done, leave to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Apple, Fennel & Olive Appetizer

1 fennel bulb
1 apple (I used Delicious)
1 tsp raw cane sugar
approx. 20 pitted black olives
1 – 2 tbsp pumpkin seed oil
freshly ground sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Feeds 2

Wash fennel and apple, and thinly slice both on a mandolin. Quarter the olives and set aside.

Melt butter in a frying pan, add the fennel and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add sugar, stir well, then add the apple slices. It’s OK if the fennel gets very lightly browned in some places, but overall it should just soften and not brown.

Arrange apple/fennel mix on a platter, then season with freshly ground salt and pepper. Distribute quartered olives on top, then carefully pour about 1 – 2 tbsp pumpkin seed oil over it.

Personally, I like this best slightly warm, but it’s also good served cold.