Sautéed Fennel and Maitake Mushrooms


Every now and then, I’ll cook something on a weeknight, something I put together on the fly without much thought, and it ends up being really, really good. When that happens, I turn to Steve and using my finest imitation of Julia Child’s voice I exclaim “How do I do it?” It never fails to make us laugh.

I made today’s recipe a few weeks ago and since then I’ve made it another three or four times, each time being astonished at how good it is. I had never cooked maitake mushrooms before. They are also known as hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and they are a type that must be cooked to be eaten. Their pompom-like fronds separate easily by hand and when they are sautéed in oil or butter they get crispy on the edges but remain satisfyingly meaty elsewhere.

It turns out that they also pair perfectly with caramelized fennel. Add some garlic and lemon zest in the mix, and you have a mouthwatering side dish. The flavor is deep. There’s sweetness and acidity but only as side notes. The star is the rich, umami flavor that both the mushroom and the fennel (along with the garlic) provide.

If you can find maitake mushrooms, you have to make this dish. It’s easy to put together and I guarantee that as soon as you take the last bite, you’ll start planning to make it again.

Sautéed Fennel and Maitake Mushrooms

Makes 2-3 servings as a side dish

Note: Maitake mushrooms are usually grown on oak so they are clean. But if you want to wash yours, do it right before you cook them. Mine are grown organically on pieces of oak so I don’t wash them.


1 head of maitake (hen-of-the woods) mushrooms (about 6-8 inches in diameter)
1 medium sized fennel head
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
zest of one lemon (preferably done on a microplane)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil


Remove the tough core of the maitake mushrooms, if there is any. With your hands, gently separate the fronds into bite size pieces. Set aside.

Cut the fennel head lengthwise into four sections. Remove and discard the core from each section and then slice it thinly with a sharp knife.

In a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat and add the sliced fennel. Sauté, stirring often until the fennel has caramelized, with the edges starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fennel from the pan.

Depending on how much olive oil is left in your pan, add more to have about 3 tablespoons. Heat it over medium high heat and add the mushrooms. Sauté until they are cooked through and the edges are just starting to crisp, about 4-5 minutes (add more olive oil if it looks too dry). Add the chopped garlic and sauté for another 30-60 seconds until the garlic starts to smell.

Add the cooked fennel back in the pan, as well as the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Give it a good stir for a few seconds and remove from the pan onto serving plates.

You can squeeze some lemon juice on top if you want some additional acidity. Serve immediately.

Honey and Fennel Granola


Surprises aren’t always welcome. And I’m not just talking about bad ones (Surprise! Your appendix burst!). Sometimes even good surprises can be unpleasant. When I was in 7th grade, some of my classmates and I organized a surprise birthday party for a boy who was at the time my best friend. We went to his house while he was away and anxiously waited for him to arrive. When his parents (who were working with us for the surprise) brought him in the door, we yelled “Surprise!“, at which point he immediately burst into tears and ran off. It took his parents 3o minutes to calm him down and bring him back to the party, which ended up being a lot of fun.

I never understood why he reacted that way until four years later, my parents announced to my sister and me that we were going out to dinner. When we got to the restaurant and opened the door, about 50 of our friends from school were there yelling “Surprise!” They had organized the party for both of our birthdays (which are four days apart) with the help of our parents. This was such a wonderful thing that our friends and parents did, but my immediate reaction was to want to turn around and run away. It was too much for me, the unexpected obligation to be at this party, to adjust from a quiet dinner out with my family to a night of dancing with my friends. I got over it after a few minutes, but I finally understood why my 7th grade friend had run away like that when we surprised him.

In food, good surprises are always welcome. In fact, I long for them. Bad surprises are never good (Surprise! That was a glass shard you just chewed on!). But an unexpected ingredient or an unknown cooking technique, they make me deliriously happy.

Granola isn’t known for its ability to surprise. But when I made this recipe and we tasted it for the first time, we pursed our lips and nodded in satisfaction. It was unexpected. The fennel and honey combined to make a truly unique flavor, at least for granola. We were surprised. Pleasantly. And we didn’t run away. We dug in for seconds.

Honey and Fennel Granola – From Bon Appétit


⅓ cup pine nuts
⅓ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup slivered almonds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
½ cup honey
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups old-fashioned oats
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup dried apricots, chopped
½ cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped


Preheat oven to 350°. Toast pine nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, sesame seeds, and fennel seeds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until lightly golden, 5–7 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 275°.

Meanwhile, whisk honey, peanut butter, oil, orange zest and juice, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Toss nuts and seeds, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Pour honey mixture over and gently mix until oat mixture is completely coated.

Spread out on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring halfway through (edges will take on color before center does), until golden brown, 20–25 minutes. Let cool; granola will crisp as it cools. Break up into pieces, then stir in apricots and cranberries.

Do Ahead: Granola can be made 1 week ahead. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Chicken with Clementines, Fennel, and Ouzo


I’m back from a little over three weeks of travel and I am so happy to be home again. I’ve always been a homebody, so being away from home for long periods of time makes me feel rootless and restless. Even when I am in New York I’ve been known to resist being out of the apartment for too long. I like to come home, regroup, and then go out again.


One of my trips was back home to visit my family. It was a somewhat special trip because I had a reunion of sorts with three of my friends from high school, two of whom I hadn’t seen in 25 years. I marveled at how little we have changed in some things (our looks in general, our mannerisms, many of our interests) and how much in others (the inability of some us to read menus in dim restaurant lights, having teenage kids).


The older I get, the more I find myself going down memory lane and remembering little details about my childhood. The four of us, along with my sister who was there with us, remembered and laughed about some silly things, like our predilection for writing bad poems which we exchanged and commented on with the seriousness of a grand literary salon.


Inevitably, we compared our teenage years with those of their own kids. And, as it seems to be the habit of every generation, we lamented the fact that “back in our days” things were different, or better, or less complicated. Truth be told, things were simpler then. We were a lot more innocent, as was the world in which we lived. With no Internet or any connected devices, our world was limited to what was physically close to us and that made things a lot less complex.


While I was at home, I also did one of my favorite activities: go to the grocery store. I love to walk the aisles and rediscover food that I grew up with but have either completely forgotten or haven’t tasted in years. Like the slightly sweetened sesame rusks called glystarkes or the fried dough balls soaked in honey syrup called loukoumades. Every morning I ate a fresh kolokoti, a turnover filled with cooked pumpkin, raisins, and bulgur wheat.


I started this blog post thinking I was going to somehow bring it back to the taste of licorice or anise, which is a key element of this recipe I want to share with you today. I had envisioned talking about how as a kid I watched The Little House on the Prairie and always wondered what this “sweet root” (as the greek subtitles translated it) was that the kids seemed to buy at the pharmacy. And how it turned out to be licorice, a word that comes from the greek glykoriza which means sweet root. And how I realized I hated licorice, though I still like ouzo, especially on a hot summer night, turned milky with the addition of ice cold water.

But in the end, I couldn’t really find my way to all that and I figured I would just give you this recipe from “Jerusalem: A Cookbook.” It’s an extraordinary dish, made even more amazing by its simplicity.


Chicken with Clementines, Fennel, and Ouzo – Slightly adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Makes 4 servings


6 1/2 tablespoons / 100ml ouzo (or other anise flavored drink like arak or pernod)
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons grain mustard
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 medium fennel bulbs (about 1lb or 500gr)
2 – 2 1/2 lbs skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
4 clementines, unpeeled, sliced horizontally very thin (about 1/4 inch)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed
chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish


Put the first eight ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well. Cut each fennel bulb in half lengthwise and then cut each half into 4 wedges. Add the fennel to the bowl along with the chicken thighs, clementine slices, thyme, and fennel seeds. Using your hands, mix everything well and then cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight (if you don’t have the time, skip the marinating stage).

Preheat the oven to 475º F / 220º C. Transfer the chicken and all the ingredients in the bowl, along with the liquid marinade, in a baking sheet that is large enough to accommodate everything without being overcrowded (this will help the chicken to brown). Make sure that the skin of the chicken thighs is facing up. Put the pan in the preheated oven and roast for 35-45 minutes until the chicken is brown and cooked through.

Remove from the oven. Lift the chicken, fennel and clementines from the pan and put on a serving platter. Cover and keep warm. Pour the cooking liquid into a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the sauce is reduced by one third. You should be left with about 1/3 cup (80 ml). Pour the hot sauce of the chicken and top with some parsley before serving.