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fennel slaw + combinations

I used to intern at a restaurant where they would marinate giant containers of beautiful, ripe olives in extra virgin olive oil, anise seeds, orange zest and black peppercorns. They were usually served with some hummus, fava spread, baba ghanoush etc, a heavy pour of olive oil and some pillowy, homemade bread. They were such delicious olives though. I was always reaching into the service container throughout the dinner rush for a little flavourful and salty bite.

I’ve always loved little bites of pickled or briny things before or as part of dinner. It feels a bit more social, all of the hands reaching into one plate, maybe a bit discreetly spitting out olive pits, messy fingers etc. It really engages you with the meal and the conversation I think. Lucky for me, my boyfriend shares the same penchant for little dinner time nibbles. Bonus: usually when we eat out and there’s one tempting, little sun-dried olive left on the mezze/appy plate, he happily offers it up to me. Good man indeed.

Recently he got me this amazing book by Niki Segnit. I had mentioned a while ago that I was seeking it out and voila! He shows up to our little weekday hangout with the British edition in tow (where the ‘u’ is included in ‘flavour’ most importantly). I am a huge fan of the Flavor Bible. I strongly believe that it replaces the need for most cookbooks. This quirky and beautifully designed volume goes even further with specific ingredient combinations and why they work. I started perusing it and noticed her entry on orange and olive together. It seemed a bit odd at first, but then I remembered my bite-sized snack of choice during service at the restaurant and how perfect it was. So, here it is in salad form with shaved fennel in place of the anise seeds. I love treating fennel this way because the flavour changes entirely. Not as licorice-y and so, so fresh and crunchy.

fennel & carrot slaw with orange, olives and dill
serves: 4
special equipment: a mandoline or some premium knife skills
notes: The dill really amps up the freshness, but other herbs could work too. Basil has a bit of a licorice note that would be nice or parsley’s peppery quality would fit in too.

1 medium fennel bulb, tops and tough outer layers removed
2 medium carrots, peeled
1/3 cup ripe olives, pitted and sliced
3 sprigs of dill, leaves finely chopped (should end up with about 1/4 cup)
juice of 1 orange (might be different for you, I had a dry-ish orange)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp agave nectar
salt and pepper

Core the fennel: cut the trimmed bulb in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife, make triangular-shaped  cuts around the firm core at the base and remove it. Slice the fennel on the mandoline. I try to go pretty paper-thin, but still retaining structure. Place shaved fennel into a large bowl.

With your peeler, make strips of carrot and place into the bowl with the fennel. Add the chopped dill and olives.

Add the orange juice, olive oil, agave nectar, salt and pepper to the fennel mixture and toss with your hands to combine. Mound on a serving plate and garnish with some reserved dill sprigs if you like.

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Ali Seiter21/10/2011 - 9:11 pm

Ooh, does this look yummy! I usually don’t enjoy olives in composed dishes, preferring them as antipasto snacks, but they sure do appeal to me in this salad. What a perfect homage to fall produce.

sweetie24/10/2011 - 3:15 pm

hello there, i recently made a recipe from your blog with great results. many thanks! your directions were very clearly written. loved the ease.

i’ve republished the recipe here with changes to the directions. i did give you credit for the delicious inspiration:

Laura24/10/2011 - 7:46 pm

Love that you layered it as a parfait :)

Jill @ A Cook's Nook26/10/2011 - 10:33 am

that restaurant sounds like it was all kinds of awesome! I really love fennel and olives, so this is going on my “must try” list. Thanks for the post (as always) :)

Steph@TheChickpeaChickadee16/11/2011 - 12:48 am

Looks fabulous!! I just discovered your blog. Can’t wait to try out some of the recipes you’ve posted.

[...] Anywho, if you’d like to read my first veggie feature on the ever-intriguing and always delightful fennel in the June 22-23 Harmony Valley newsletter, please visit this link! Special thanks to Laura at The First Mess, from whom I adapted two recipes for the feature—her Grilled Fennel and Quinoa Salad as well as her Fennel and Carrot Slaw with Orange, Olives, and Dill. [...]

[…] Fennel and Carrot Slaw with Orange, Olives and Dill at The First Mess […]

mushrooms and tofu en papillote + starting out a bit persnickety

I used to hate mushrooms and tofu. Together, separately, with sauce, without sauce, deep fried, grilled, whatever the method; it didn’t matter. I just didn’t think they were for me because every time I tried them, the texture was off. It felt like I was endlessly chewing tofu or desperately trying to swallow some mushroom as quickly as possible to avoid actually feeling it in my mouth. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why these were commonly available vegetarian main course options at restaurants. They just didn’t seem appealing. What gives!

So now that I’m all grown up, I’ve realized that a) my taste buds/senses for texture have matured just a tad and b) some of the cooking/handling methods used by restaurants with these foods was… not to my taste. I tend to like both of these ingredients in two very precise ways. One: with a crispy exterior and a juicy, yielding interior ie lightly fried with some kind of coating. Um, who doesn’t like that? Two: completely and utterly juicy, velvety smooth, mushy but with a shred of structure and bite. Almost unctuous. Meaty even. This dish falls into that dreamy second category.

This cooking method is one of my favourites. So elegant and fun. And easy too. Once you get some kind of folding and sealing technique down, you’re off to the races. You could try this method with all kinds of veggies and herbs, spices, acidic components, juices, stocks. Lots of possibility. I love the slightly reduced and sweet balsamic vinegar with the pungent and salty miso though. The end-product is super moist and tastes so undeniably true to all of the ingredients. None of the flavour evaporates; into the air and gone forever. You get to take in every little ounce of taste bundled up in that package. And that first bit of steam that rises when you dramatically snip them open? Oh man. Too good.

mushrooms and tofu en papillote with miso and rosemary
serves: 4-5
special equipment: 2-5 sheets of parchment paper
notes: Be careful when you snip the little packages open! Those pouches are super steamy. You could make this whole recipe easily in two parchment pockets, but feel free to make it in five smaller ones for presentation value.

12 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini and shiitake)
4 ounces organic firm tofu, diced into small cubes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves finely chopped
1 tsp miso
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 sprigs of thyme (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the parchment paper: Take one sheet of parchment (about the size of a full sheet tray), fold it in half and cut out the shape of half a heart so that when you unfold the paper, the cut out is heart-shaped (ooooh romantic!). Repeat with the other piece(s).

Combine the sliced mushrooms, tofu, garlic, rosemary, miso, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss until mushrooms and tofu are evenly coated in the vinegar and oil.

Place one side of the heart-shaped paper on a baking sheet. Place half of the mushroom and tofu mixture onto the paper, towards the crease and trying to keep it as compact as possible. Place a thyme sprig on top if using. Fold the edge of the paper toward you tightly, starting at the top curve of the heart. After the first fold, take the next inch or so and fold it towards you again, overlapping the previous fold a little bit. Continue this process until you’ve sealed up the whole pocket. Awesome visual instructions found here.

Repeat the sealing process with remaining pockets/mushroom and tofu mixture. Place pockets on a baking sheet and put into the oven for 20 minutes. The packets should be quite puffed up. Snip them open with scissors carefully and serve.

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Mushrooms Canada18/10/2011 - 10:45 am

This looks sooo easy & flavourful!
- Brittany

Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul18/10/2011 - 2:02 pm

This looks and sounds divine! I’ve never considered cooking tofu en papillote, but this week I’ll have to try it. Your photos are gorgeous!

[...] recipe is from The First Mess and her pictures are wonderful and instructions easy to follow.  I never made a dish that required [...]

Kelsey (Happyolks)18/10/2011 - 9:23 pm

Divine. period. I’m a sucker for the shitaki, wish they weren’t so darn expensive.

iscribbler18/10/2011 - 9:27 pm

Thank you for posting this recipe! It came right when I was wondering what to do with my spaghetti squash and I’m glad I tried it. It’s really delicious! :) The smell while it’s cooking alone is incredible!

Sprigs of Rosemary20/10/2011 - 7:54 am

Brilliant idea, cooking tofu en papilotte. Those pouches are so much fun to make and eat! I’ve always wanted to go mushroom hunting, too, but I’m not brave enough.

Laura20/10/2011 - 7:13 pm

I know! I’m scared of getting poisoned by something that looks identical to a morel or something. There’s a certain appeal to that kind of danger though.

victoria21/10/2011 - 10:56 pm

this is some goodness.

It’s almost gross how precious it is when you unfold the papillote and it’s a heart.

This Week’s Menu «24/10/2011 - 9:13 am

[...] We’re attending a pot-luck party, so I’ve left it open. Tuesday: Tofu and Mushrooms en papillote with Garlicky Crash Potatoes Wednesday: Shrimp with Couscous Thursday: Smoky Roasted Corn and Sweet [...]

[...] This recipe is from the website The First Mess. [...]

Agata16/12/2011 - 12:35 pm

Oh Im totally in love with this <3
Im a beginner with tofu-recipes but I will try this one :)

Jo27/12/2011 - 11:47 am

Looks delicious. Would love for you to share your pictures with us over at

This Week's Menu - Gamerwife03/07/2012 - 3:19 pm

[...] We’re attending a pot-luck party, so I’ve left it open. Tuesday: Tofu and Mushrooms en papillote with Garlicky Crash Potatoes Wednesday: Shrimp with Couscous Thursday: Smoky Roasted Corn and Sweet [...]

[...] discovered this recipe from Laura at “The first mess” 33 weeks ago and pinned it to try it [...]

[...] Dinner: Mushrooms and tofu en papillote [...]

[...] I came across this recipe The First Mess and while ago I immediately bookmarked it vowed to make it when the weather got [...]

[...] wanting to make for  a while.  I’d found this mushroom and tofu en papilotte dish from The First Mess blog and instantly wanted to make it.  (“En papilotte” means “in parchment.”) [...]

BlindGrrL28/01/2013 - 11:44 am

This tasted very nice… fresh yet earthy at the same time. I didn’t have any fresh mushrooms on hand, but I had a bag of dried shiitakes (much less expensive when you buy them in this form). So I soaked them until they were soft and prepared them per recipe. It came out great! If you love the taste of shiitakes (like me), but are on a budget (also like me), try using dried shiitakes- it’s considerably cheaper & worked beautifully for me… thanks for the recipe, dear :-)

Bethany Lumbert04/02/2013 - 1:33 pm

Would it be possible to use something else besides parchment paper?

Laura Wright04/02/2013 - 2:41 pm

Hi Bethany,
Aluminum foil would work just as well.

Bethany Lumbert10/02/2013 - 7:46 pm

Hi Laura!

This recipe was absolutely delicious. I love the balsamic vinegar addition paired with the meatiness of the shiitake mushrooms! yum! Thank you for sharing!!


[...] Mushrooms and Tofu en Papillote with Rosemary and Miso: [...]

[...] and mushrom papillote Image by Lablascovegmenu [EN] I took the recipe form Laura at her blog [...]

Cassie15/01/2014 - 2:29 pm

should the tofu be drained beforehand?

Laura Wright16/01/2014 - 9:34 am

Hi Cassie, yes the tofu should be drained and towelled off before you cut it up.

Catharine13/02/2014 - 3:23 pm

trying this mushroom/tofu in little packets and loving it.


Have you ever tried muhammara? Smoky red peppers, toasty walnuts, some garlic and lemon all blended up until creamy and delicious. It’s certainly one of my favourite dips for sure. I have a lovely little recipe for it over at One Green Planet today. Maybe you’ll take a peek?

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Jill @ A Cook's Nook16/10/2011 - 6:34 pm

Roasted peppers and walnuts- yes please!

The Hungry Birdie24/10/2011 - 4:37 pm

Mmmm, what a delicious-looking alternative to hummus! I must try this soon :D

Cookie and Kate24/10/2011 - 10:03 pm

Gorgeous recipe! I’ve seen muhammara spreads here and there and I think it’s high time to make some myself. I’m crazy for red peppers so I know I’ll love it!