Antonakis Christodoulou / Winter Fennel Rice Bowl
Antonakis is one of those people who is as sweet and caring, witty and talented as you would expect when meeting him. He has an impeccable style all his own, and a joie de vivre that is to be admired. I remember the first time we met he wore a tropical pattern button-up shirt that he left open just enough to tease a bit of his chest tattoo, which knowing him as I do now, is just so perfectly #antonakis.
Exhibiting widely throughout Greece, broader Europe and beyond, with appearances ranging from Flaneur to Artforum, Antonakis' artwork spans traditional and contemporary mediums of visual art. I personally love the colors and shapes in his paintings, the stories of his photography, and his overall inquisitiveness that is required to be a curious, thoughtful artist.
Among Antonakis' travels around the time we met, he developed a particular affinity for Los Angeles. In chatting recently about LA, Antonakis recalled some of his favorite foods in the city of palms, one of which is the iconic sorrel bowl at Sqirl. So naturally, I thought, why couldn't the concept of this dish be translated and revamped in a seasonal Athenian style.
Athens' weekly markets (laiki) are the epicenter of neighborhood produce exchange, and in winter the variety of greens and herbs is expansive. Jewels of pomegranate seeds, rich egg, briny feta, hearty brown rice, herbaceous fennel, and of course, plenty of olive oil from Antonakis' trees in Crete, all make up the components of this bright meal. This dish not only reflects the wintry, crisp flavors of laiki, but by plating them on colorful dishes against the backdrop of Antonakis' work, there is a certain playfulness and warmth to this international grain bowl that mirrors the person after whom it was inspired; both full of depth, multilayered, thoughtful, and vivacious.
WINTER FENNEL GRAIN BOWL
1 large bunch fennel fronds*
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp thyme
1 c short grain brown rice
4 oz feta
Salt and pepper to taste
*If you don't have access to good fennel, you could substitute dill however note that the flavor would obviously be of very potent dill. You can also mix dill and fennel.
In a medium saucepan on medium heat, cook the rice for ~45-55 minutes until it is just starting to soften and fall apart, but not soupy. Like a pre-congee or pre-porridge consistency. When the water first comes to a boil, add 1 tbsp olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper. Add water as needed.
Make the fennel sauce: In a blender combine the fennel fronds (mostly de-stemmed), garlic, juice of one lemon, a generous dash of salt and pepper, and ~1/3 c olive oil. Blend until smooth and adjust to taste as needed. Note, this can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator overnight.
Prep the eggs: Bring water in medium saucepan to a boil (enough to cover the eggs). When the water comes to a boil, set a timer to 7 minutes and using a spoon, gently put the eggs into the water. Bring down to a medium-high heat, and gently stir for the first minute or so. Prepare a medium, deep bowl with ice water and when the timer goes off, use the spoon to remove the eggs and place them in the cold water. Let rest for ~15 minutes and gently peel the shells off the eggs in the water (prevents breakage). Set aside.
Remove the seeds from the pomegranate, set aside.
When the rice has cooked and cooled to slightly warm/room temperature, add it to a bowl and combine with the fennel sauce. Divide into two bowls and top with feta, thyme, pomegranate seeds, and a few extra fennel fronds. Top with more olive oil and lemon juice to taste.
Learn more about Antonakis Christodoulou. Efharisto Antonaki!