Friday, May 31, 2013

Pesto Flatbread with Shrimp and Fennel for #FennelFriday Pizza...Featuring Pollen Ranch Fennel Pollen

I recently joined a new blogging group called Fennel Friday Cooking Club. The last Friday of each month, we’re going to be sharing recipes that feature a fennel pollen product from Pollen Ranch. The group is the idea of Kimberly from The Hungry Goddess blog. This month’s featured product is fennel pollen, and our theme is pizza or flatbread. Using raw or cooked fennel bulb is totally optional, but I recently tried fennel. Now I'm hooked on the mellow, sweet flavor of roasted fennel! I had never tasted fennel pollen before, so I was immediately intrigued. As soon as my package arrived from Pollen Ranch, I had to open the tin and sample the fennel pollen right away.

Fennel pollen is lightly sweet, with a slight hint of anise…and it’s unlike any other spice I’ve ever tried. I immediately thought that the fennel pollen would pair perfectly with sweet Texas Gulf shrimp. That was my jumping off point for my simple Pesto Flatbread with Shrimp and Fennel. Rather than make one large pizza, I opted to make individual flatbreads using pita bread and a good-quality pre-made pesto from my favorite local gourmet grocery. Feel free to use homemade pizza dough and from-scratch pesto if you prefer. I decided to use both roasted fennel and the fennel pollen on my flatbreads, along with fontina cheese and shallot. This isn't your average pizza, but it's totally tasty!

By using pita bread and purchased pesto, I was able to have these flatbreads on the table in under and hour -- including the roasting time for the fresh fennel! These flatbreads are  simple enough for a weeknight dinner, but nice enough to serve guests with a glass of white wine and a chilled green salad. These flatbreads are what I like to refer to as "casual gourmet" cooking.

Pesto Flatbread with Shrimp and Fennel
A Weekend Gourmet Original

Step 1: Preheat oven to 425. Cut a fennel bulb from the frons, then cut the bulb in half from the top, then into slices. Toss with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread on a nonstick baking sheet topped with parchment. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring a couple of times during baking to ensure even cooking.

Step 2: While the fennel roasts, set three pita breads on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Top each pita with approximately 1/3 cup of pesto. Spread evenly and top with shredded fontina cheese. When fennel is done roasting, turn the oven down to 375.

Step 3: Place the following ingredients on top of the fontina. Four evenly spaced medium shrimp, some of the roasted fennel, and thin slices of shallot. Add granulated garlic and salt & pepper to taste. Evenly sprinkle each of the flatbreads with about ½ tsp. of Pollen Ranch fennel pollen. Cook until the shrimp are cooked through and the cheese is melted…this took about 12 minutes in my oven. To serve, cut each flatbread into four small wedges with one shrimp each.

OMG…this flatbread is literally BURSTING with flavor! The pita cooked up crispy at the edges, the fontina was creamy and nutty, and the pesto provided lots of great flavor. And the double shot of fennel? Amazing! The roasted fennel and fennel pollen worked perfectly to provide a subtle sweet-savory flavor profile. Paired with a crispy green salad, this made a perfect dinner for two. These flatbread wedges could also be served as an appetizer for an al fresco Summer party. Just do yourself a favor: make these soon!

Pollen Ranch fennel products can be ordered online, and you can find fennel bulbs in the Produce department of most large grocery stores. If you've never cooked with fennel or fennel pollen, I hope you'll give it a try very soon! Be sure to come back next month for another fun Fennel Friday…where we’ll be pairing Summer vegetables with a savory fennel pollen spice blend.

Disclosure: Pollen Ranch supplied #FennelFriday Cooking Club members with a tin of their fennel pollen to facilitate this post. The opinions and recipe shared are my own.

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