Ricotta cheese with fennel, orange, & oven-dried olives

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1 bulb fennel
1.5 cups fresh orange juice
1 cup Kalamata olives, well rinsed and drained
1.5 cup fresh ricotta cheese
Freshly grated orange zest
chopped chives
olive oil

Thinly shave fennel and place in orange juice.  Refrigerate and let marinate for 8 to 10 hours.  Drain fennel and discard orange juice.

Meanwhile, spread olives out on a baking sheet.  Bake in a 1500 oven for 8 hours.  Transfer to a food processor and blend until finely chopped.

Return olives to baking sheet and bake at 3500 for about 30 minutes more, until completely dry.

To serve, spoon about 3 T ricotta cheese on each plate.  Divide fennel between plates.  Top with a generous sprinkle of dried olives, fresh orange zest, and chives. Drizzle olive oil around edge of plate.

Extra dried olives may be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, for up to a week.  If olives become moist, place in 3500 oven about 15 minutes, until dried out again.  Try sprinkled over salads or with fish.

Yields: 8

NOTE:  Fennel needs to marinate for 1 day