Two Perfect Picnic Dips

Yes, I’m still talking about bean dips… I can’t help it.

White Bean & Caramelized Onion Dip

White Bean & Caramelized Onion Dip

Picnic season is upon us and bean dips make an excellent addition to the blanket — they’re easy to make, are best served at room temperature and can be taken pretty much anywhere since they don’t rely on mayonnaise for a rich, creamy texture.

Even better? These two tasty dips easily double as spreads for al fresco sandwich-making. The white bean dip is fantastic on crusty sourdough with marinated artichokes and roasted peppers; the green pea dip is divine with ham on pumpernickel….

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How I Fell in Love with Fennel

I can still remember my first taste of raw fennel.

Fennel

Fennel

I had yet to reach the age of happily consuming vegetables (and broccoli only served to amuse me with its tree-like appearance), but here was a crunchy vegetable that looked a little like celery and… TASTED A LOT LIKE CANDY! One crisp, licorice-scented bite and I was hooked.

Once I started cooking on regular basis, my childhood appreciation of fennel’s sweet flavor developed into a deep, abiding love.

It might seem silly to declare my devotion to foeniculum vulgare, but I find fennel to be such an engaging ingredient. This singular vegetable develops a variety of characteristics based on different preparations, and it brings its distinct flavor to whatever I’m preparing.

Since fennel offers a hint of spring before most of the real spring vegetables arrive, now’s a great time to experiment with a few tasty ideas… both raw and cooked. …

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