Baked Ricotta Dip, Salmon with Red Wine-Balsamic Sauce and Oven-Braised Fennel

If you don’t have dinner plans tonight, now you do.

And I promise you’ll thank me later.  We enjoyed this date-night dinner last Friday night and it was amazing.  I’m pretty sure we talked about how delicious the meal was the entire time we were eating.  Nothing else earned a spot at dinnertime conversation.

To start off the evening, Baked Ricotta Dip for “appy” hour.  I chose this appetizer because I had some ricotta cheese that I didn’t want to go to waste.

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Sweet but still savory.  Crunchy but still creamy.

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The drizzle on top is key.  Don’t leave that out (though I didn’t have truffle honey).  For dipping, I used Glutino’s bagel chips – the best!

The fennel takes a little while to braise, so I got started on that shortly after the appetizer.

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Oven-braised fennel with balsamic vinegar is my new favorite side dish.  I splurged and purchased some fig balsamic vinegar and it was so worth the splurge.  Between the fennel and the red wine sauce, it totally earned a permanent spot in my oil and vinegar basket.  I left out the white wine in the side dish and just used more chicken stock.  I didn’t want the red wine in the sauce for the salmon to compete with the side dish.  Thinking about this dinner makes me want more braised fennel.  And can someone tell me why I’m just now realizing how amazing fennel is cooked?

The salmon was simply cooked in a skillet in a little olive oil.  The red wine-balsamic sauce stole the show.  A perfect pairing of a main dish and a side dish.

We all know Big Guy did not eat salmon – he had a grilled steak with the same red wine-balsamic and he couldn’t stop talking about the lusciousness of the sauce.

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Like I said, you can thank me later.

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