Have you ever caramelized fennel? Browning this vegetable in a skillet transforms it into something completely different from its crisp, raw state; all but a trace of the anise flavor melts away and the fennel becomes tender, mellow, and sweet. Caramelized fennel melds perfectly with the textures and flavors of nutty chickpeas, succulent olives, orange, and lemon – and spooned over couscous, it makes a quick-cooking, bright yet hearty dish.
The combination of textures in this dish couldn't get any better, from the fluffy grains of couscous to the warm, smooth chickpeas, melt-in-your-mouth fennel, and little bursts of olive. Enjoy it as a one-dish lunch or dinner, or as a side to a larger meal.
1 large fennel bulb with fronds
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 cups (or 1 15-ounce can) cooked and drained chickpeas
10 Kalamata olives, halved and pitted
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup instant couscous
Trim fennel and cut into 1/4-inch thick wedges. Reserve fronds for garnish.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Add coriander, chickpeas, olives, and lemon juice to pan and stir to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, juice the orange into a liquid measuring cup and top off with water to make 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Add liquid to a small saucepan along with 1 tablespoon olive oil, orange zest, lemon zest, and salt. Bring to a boil and stir in couscous. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand for at least 5 minutes.
To serve, fluff couscous grains with a fork and spread on a dish. Spoon chickpeas and fennel over couscous and garnish with fennel fronds.
(Images: Emily Ho)