Headnote: This recipe is all about the play on textures – the key is to use pears that are still firm. Roasting them draws out the sweetness but allows them to stay a bit crisp during the process, developing a deep golden color. The prosciutto can be omitted to make this meal a vegan first course.
- 2 Bulbs Fennel – fronds removed & quartered
- 2 Pears – Peeled, cored and quartered
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4-6 slices prosciutto (optional)
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts
- 4 Medjool dates, halved and pitted
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup warm water
- Juice of 1 meyer lemon
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- In a large bowl, toss fennel, pears, thyme and salt – add olive oil, and stir to coat – spread contents onto a rimmed baking sheet.
- Roast in oven for 40 minutes, turning pears and fennel every 15 minutes – keep close eye during last 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temp.
- Reduce oven to 350
- Toast hazelnuts on a lined baking sheet for 10 minutes, or until the skins are papery and lose. Transfer nuts to a dishtowel, fold towel over the nuts and rub vigorously until the skins come off. Peeled nuts should be golden in color and not white.
- While hazelnuts toast, make the vinaigrette: In a food processor combine dates, mustard and vinegar; process until smooth – with motor running slowly add olive oil and process until emulsified and thickened – remove lid and scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. Turn processor back on and add water and lemon juice – transfer to bowl and set aside.
Spread 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup vinaigrette on serving platter and arrange fennel and pears on top – drape with prosciutto if using – top with hazelnuts just prior to serving