I don’t remember when I first tasted fennel. I was probably inspired to buy a few bulbs by a TV food show or magazine article featuring it as an ingredient. The first recipe I prepared was a fennel gratin that Mac an I really liked. From then, I was off to find new ways to use the “F” vegetable.
Unfortunately, at that time, probably ten years ago, it was a difficult vegetable to find. Our local grocery, a small independent one, carried few vegetables beyond those most commonly used. I remember being thrilled to find fresh asparagus there. Even the big chain groceries in the neighboring towns and city had no fennel. I asked for it at my local grocery and they obliged my request and started carrying it. But they had to buy a big box of it and no one but me ever bought it. One can only eat so much fennel in a week even if one is inordinately fond of it! So, with the bulbs languishing in the store’s precious limited space, fennel was scratched off their order list.
I had to drive quite far to find it and then it was not always available. But sometime in the past ten years, others have found the vegetable appealing and it is now available at my nearby Kroger as well as other large groceries.
I have used fennel raw, sliced like celery sticks, in salads. One of my favorite is a combination of fennel and Granny Smith apple wedges with a slightly mustardy vinaigrette.
Here is a recipe from Sara’s Secrets (Food Network) that is easy and delicious.
1 large fennel bulb or 2 small bulbs
2 tablespoons butter
1 small clove garlic, whole
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine, optional
Water and/or chicken stock, to cover
1. Trim stalks flush with fennel bulb and cut each bulb lengthwise into quarters, or halves, if using small bulbs.
2. In a heavy saucepan large enough to hold the fennel flat in one layer, melt 1 tablespoon butter over moderate heat.
3. Add fennel garlic, thyme, and toss to coat with butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add wine, if using, and chicken stock.
4. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Braise for 15 to 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
5. Stir in remaining tablespoon butter and salt and pepper, to taste.
(I have made this and added a sliced shallot to the mix.)
This same dish can be prepared with a little less water or chicken broth and baked in the oven until the vegetables are just tender. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and broil until the cheese melts and browns a little.
Find a fennel recipe and try it. The taste reminds me a little of licorice (which I don’t like at all) but it is a clean, fresh taste when raw and deep and hearty when cooked.
Bye for now,