The other day, I bought fresh fennel at the grocery store.
Fresh fennel, if you’re not familiar with it, is awkward and big, not unlike many of us were when we were back in junior high. Undeterred by the way my two bulbs wouldn’t fit inside a standard produce bag, their dill-like fronds poking out on top, I carried those towering bodies proudly to the checkout line, along with the other items in my cart.
Then, I took them home to Tim, laying their bodies across our cutting board, where, together, we deconstructed them, like vegetable surgeons working as a team: The tops, we chopped for garnishes. The stems, we boiled into broth. The bulbs, we cut to wedges and sidled along onions to cook slowly on the stove.
An hour or so later, in return for all these efforts, we ate the braised bulbs for dinner, and, as we did, I made a discovery.
This past week, or specifically, this particular moment sitting across from Tim at the table with plates of fennel as our meal, I learned I hate, and I mean, hate, cooked fennel (or, at least, cooked fennel that tastes anything remotely like the version we made).
Since there are weeks, nay, entire months, of my life where I can’t remember learning anything notable, particularly between the high school years of 1996 and 2000, I guess you could say this was not a complete waste of time.
Besides the cooked fennel, our kitchen has seen a revolving door of new recipes this last week: sesame tahini cookies, chocolate banana smoothies as thick as ice cream, homemade honey mustard with roasted sweet potatoes and a seriously unusual raw lemon tahini pie.
Nothing was as shockingly memorable as that batch of fennel. Nothing was as good as this bruschetta.
I’ve always liked bruschetta, probably because I’ve always liked bread. And I’ve recently become obsessed with combining bruschetta and bread with the main course by serving Chicken Bruschetta Bake on busy weeknights.
A popular antipasto with Italian origin, bruschetta today takes many forms: cherry bruschetta; strawberry bruschetta; tuna bruschetta; bruschetta with ricotto, lemon, basil and honey; bruschetta with fava beans, Pecorino and mint.
Its most common form here in America revolves around tomatoes, garlic and basil, usually with some sweet and tangy balsamic drizzled on top.
And this version, which Tim first made two Sundays ago and which we’ve eaten again two times since, takes that classic idea and blends it all together – quite literally, as in, in a blender, until what you have is a chunky, fragrant, fresh tomato sauce.
To assemble the bruschetta, we toasted hefty slices of our favorite bread, topped them with generous spoonfuls of sauce and drizzled on the Trader Joe’s balsamic we like best. For a garnish, we added minced fresh fennel fronds, but you could add any fresh herb you like.
The result is a bruschetta meets crostini meets tartine – a sturdy toast topped by a thick tomato sauce that’s never been cooked, stuffed with the combined flavors of tomato and basil and garlic in every bite. It’s both satisfying and incredibly fresh, filling yet somehow still light.
And since we topped it with minced fresh fennel fronds, it might not be a reason to buy fennel, but it certainly is a legitimate use for the leftovers once you do.
Although this post discusses the following recipe as a bruschetta, it’s mainly a recipe for a quick, back-pocket, no-cook sauce. We’ve only tested it on toast, but I’d love to try it with pasta or on pizza or spooned into tortillas during the week. If you find another interesting use for it, please do tell.Print
This is a quick, no-cook sauce made with fresh fennel and cherry tomatoes that’s perfect to serve on top of crusty bread for a quick and easy bruschetta or crostini, but it is perfectly adaptable to be served on top of pasta, used on tortillas, or pretty much anything you want to serve with a red sauce.
- Slices of sturdy, crusty bread (we prefer sourdough), at least one per person
- 2 cups grape tomatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic
- A big handful of fresh basil (about 8 or 9 leaves)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- Balsamic, to taste and for drizzling
- Chopped fresh fennel greens, for garnish (or some other fresh herb, chopped fine)
- Place bread in a toaster oven or conventional oven until crisp; set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a powerful blender or food processor, combine tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil; pulse a few times, just until chunky. Add salt and pepper and around a tablespoon of balsamic, to taste; blend again; taste; adjust if needed.
- Spoon tomato sauce onto toasts, drizzle balsamic on top and sprinkle chopped fennel greens above that.
Did you try this and love it like we did? Let us know in the comments below and if you loved it like we did, please give the recipe a rating!
Are you looking for more delicious bruschetta or crostini recipes? Try out some of these tasty variations:
- Homemade Tomato Basil Bruschetta
- Camembert Cheese and Pistachio Basil Pesto Bruschetta
- Olive, Red Pepper, & Goat Cheese Crostini
- Goat Cheese and Pesto Carrot Tartines
Photos by Shanna Mallon, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on April 23rd, 2013. Last updated: March 20, 2021 at 20:14 pm.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
The staff at Foodal are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.