On Cafe Johnsonia you'll find healthy recipes, many of which are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and vegetarian. But don't worry, there's plenty for omnivores too. We believe in eating a diet full of fresh, seasonal food including an abundance of vegetables and fruit. Welcome and thanks for stopping by!
I really relied on my slow cooker to get me through the winter. I use it almost every day to cook beans and other things. It’s easy for me to accidentally forget to make dinner for my family when I’m working like crazy. Isn’t that ironic? So much food around all the time for various photo and recipe development projects and I still forget to make food for my family. Ha! Well, this slow cooker tomato sauce with fennel has been a lifesaver the past week. My kids haven’t complained about eating pasta again, and there’s still a bit in the fridge, so I think it was a pretty big success.
I love springtime veggies. Fennel is usually available year round, but the season peaks between November and March. I eat it whenever I can because it’s one of my favorite veggies. Usually I like it fresh in salads, but I also love it cooked, like in this tomato sauce.
The idea for this sauce came from that tomato sauce recipe that has been ever-popular in Blogland for the past few years. The original recipe comes from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan. Whole tomatoes and a halved onion are cooked with a good amount of butter for quite a long time. The tomatoes are broken up with a wooden spoon and before serving, the onion is removed and discarded. When I started making that recipe a few years ago, I never discarded the onion. We like onions quite a lot, so I used my immersion blender to break it up a bit. Anyway, that tomato sauce is AMAZING. Like the best sauce you’ll ever taste. And this one I’ve come up with takes cues from that sauce, but adds in fennel and uses olive oil to make it dairy-free.
The result was amazing! I’ve made it several times and I completely, 100% love it. The fennel adds another depth of flavor similar to adding sausage, only not. You know? After cooking for that long time in the slow cooker, the tomato sauce is just as amazing as the original recipe. The onions and fennel are butter-soft and practically melt in your mouth. I leave it a little chunkier because that’s how we like it, but it could be pureed a bit for a smoother sauce.
Now, we like it over pasta, but it would be good anywhere you use tomato sauce – over polenta or rice (or another grain), in lasagna, with eggs, even pureed into a soup.
Here are some other springtime recipes using fennel:
Caramelized Fennel and Onion Pizza from Love and Olive Oil
Roasted Kale and Fennel Salad with Avocado Caesar Dressing from Foodie Crush
Fennel and Pea Soup from A Brown Table
Blood Orange and Fennel Salad from Taste Love and Nourish
Caramelized Fennel and Apple Tart from Foxes Love Lemons
Crispy Skinned Barramundi with Citrus Fennel Salad from Jelly Toast
Fennel and Cabbage Slaw from Simply Scratch
Fennel Walnut Chicken Salad from All Day I Dream About Food
Beet and Fennel Soup from Love and Olive Oil
Millet Pilaf with Roasted Carrot and Fennel from An Edible Mosaic
- 2-4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large fennel bulbs
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 (28 ounce) cans organic diced or whole tomatoes
- 2 (4 ounce) cans organic tomato paste
- To prepare fennel – cut green stalks from bulb. Cut in half and remove core by cutting a V into each half where the core is. Lay the fennel cut-side down and slice crosswise, then dice. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet, or slow cooker if yours is stovetop safe. Add the onion, fennel, and garlic. Season with a little salt. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables start to soften. Transfer to a slow cooker, if not already using one, and add the tomatoes and paste.
- Cook on LOW heat for 8-10 hours, or HIGH for 5-6 hours. The sauce will be done when the fennel is butter-soft and tender.
- Serve over pasta, polenta, rice, zucchini noodles, or quinoa.
-This sauce would be great in lasagna as well.
-If you’re not a fan of fennel, use an extra onion.
Last week I learned how to make asparagus risotto. I have made risotto before, but I was never quite sure I was doing it correctly. Watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks helped, but not as much as seeing Chef Aaron from Harmons Grocery making it and then trying it out for myself. This is my version – Vegan Asparagus Risotto.
Typically at the end of the long, slow cooking time, butter and cheese is added to give the risotto an extra creamy, rich texture. That adds a lot of flavor too. I knew I could probably make up for that by adding in other non-dairy ingredients when I was making this. I’ve included a few notes in the recipe below because I separated the risotto into half, and tried two different things. I’m still not quite sure which I liked the best. Basically I swapped the butter for extra virgin coconut oil, added some unsweetened almond milk, and a little nutritional yeast. I only did that to one half in case I took it in the completely wrong direction. Luckily it worked!
I am addicted to lemon in and on everything. I added finely grated lemon zest, a bay leaf, and lots of garlic while the risotto cooked. I used a really full-flavored vegetable stock as well. It definitely wasn’t lacking in flavor when I was finished with it. The thing I learned from Chef Aaron, too, was to add the asparagus at the very end of cooking time. I sliced one bunch into small rounds so they barely cooked in the latent heat when I took the risotto off the stove. Each bite had tender-crunchy sweet asparagus with the bright lemony rice. It was SO good.
If making risotto intimidates you like it did me, there is a fantastic step-by-step risotto tutorial on Noshon.it. It’s definitely worth checking out. It takes that scary “am I doing it right?” factor out of the equation.
p.s. I also included directions in the note section for making this into a more traditional risotto with butter and cheese.
Other springtime risotto recipes worth checking out:
Risotto with Shrimp and Asparagus from The Perfect Pantry
Pea and Lemon Risotto from Baked Bree
Summer Lemon Vegetable Risotto from Eats Well With Others
Vegan Mushroom Kale Risotto from With Food and Love
Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Peas from Tasty Yummies
Beet Risotto (with goat cheese!) from Healthy.Delicious.
Roasted Red Pepper Risotto with Spinach from Bev Cooks
Onion, Leek and Parm Risotto from Naturally Ella
Fava Bean and Fennel Risotto with Sautéed Radicchio from The Vintage Mixer
Spicy Coconut Risotto with Lime Shrimp from Foxes Love Lemons (dairy-free)
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 shallots, minced (about ¼ cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound (16 ounces) arborio rice
- ¾ to 1 cup white wine
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 bay leaf
- 8-9 cups unsalted or low sodium vegetable broth or stock
- 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Pour broth or stock into a pan and bring just to a simmer.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat for 30-60 seconds until shimmering. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until it starts to soften. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Next add the rice. Cook, stirring constantly for about a minute then add the wine. Stir and cook while the wine absorbs into the rice. Add the bay leaf, lemon zest and juice.
- Ladle about 1 cup of broth into the pan. Cook, stirring constantly and letting the liquid be completely absorbed. The heat should be on medium to medium-low. Not too hot that it burns on the bottom. You want to cook it slowly so the starch from the rice is released and it turns creamy.
- Add another cup of hot stock and keep cooking and stirring. Repeat until rice is creamy and cooked through. It should not be mushy or crunchy, but al dente (to the tooth).
- Remove from heat and stir in the asparagus. Season well with salt and black pepper. Serve hot. Garnish with extra lemon zest, if desired.
-Al dente means the rice is not crunchy or mushy. It’s right in the middle. If you do decide to add the optional ingredients listed above, start adding them in when the rice is still a little undercooked so the extra cooking time doesn’t make the rice mushy.
-If you’re not dairy-free and want to make a more traditional risotto, add 1-2 Tablespoons of butter and ½-3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano right before you add the asparagus.
This recipe was developed in partnership with Red Start Yeast who is sponsoring this post. Thank you for supporting our sponsors so we can bring you high-quality content.
Last fall I first started experimenting with making yeasted gluten free rolls at home. I have really loved delving into gluten free baking and the experimentation process. It has yielded some great results after many attempts to get it just right. It’s difficult to get the texture just right because there are so many more factors with gluten free yeast bread vs. wheat bread. There are different flours and starches to blend, not to mention the xanthan gum, and getting the dough itself just right – not too sticky or dry. And then how long does it bake? What temperature? This orange cardamom gluten free yeast raised cake is something I’m really proud to share with you. I’ve been working on it for a few weeks! I am really pleased with the way it turned out.
This recipe is kind of a cross between bread and cake. Think of it like a gluten free kugelhopf, which I suppose is closer to what it is, minus the rum-soaked raisins. I’m calling it a gluten free yeast raised cake because that’s what the texture is like. It’s dense and really moist with a tight crumb – not gummy. It’s prefect. The dough is made with a great blend of gluten free flours and starches, and enriched with eggs, (vegan) butter, and coconut milk. Of course if you aren’t dairy-free, you can use dairy milk and butter with about the same results. The yeast helps give it that nice texture I was seeking, and orange zest and cardamom give it a lot of flavor. The dough itself is not very sweet, but it’s drizzled with a nice orange glaze that is sweet. If you prefer a sweeter dough, just add more sugar. (more…)