Here in America, fennel is not something one frequently finds in the average refrigerator. Perhaps you have seen it in the produce section with its long, fern-like fronds and its fat, white bulb. Many know it resembles anise in taste, with its mild licorice flavor. There are many culinary possibilities with this vegetable, or more properly, "herb."
To begin with, you can eat fennel raw. Try it as an addition to your next vegetable tray, or as the main ingredient of a salad. Fennel also makes a wonderful addition to soup or stews. Recipes seem to abound pairing fennel with fish, the mild anise flavor melding well with a delicate fish. You can eat fennel cut in wedges, steamed and topped with butter, or perhaps roasted in the oven, drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. And I highly recommend the Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel and Herbs mentioned in our January Magazine Review.
Today I have a recipe for fennel gratin which is just amazing. I served this to our guests on Christmas day. They were unsure what to expect at first but were soon raving about the dish. If you are concerned about the high fat content of the recipe, I would suggest pairing it with an otherwise low-fat meal such as fish or chicken.
(adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)
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2 fennel bulbs
1 cup heavy cream
1 garlic clove, crushed
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400F. Put a pan of salted water on to boil. Trim the fennel tops, then cut into wedges. Boil (or steam) wedges for 5-6 minutes, then drain well.
Arrange wedges in an ovenproof dish, season and sprinkle with nutmeg. Stir the garlic into the cream and pour over the fennel. Top with the parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes (or more) until golden and bubbling.
If you are interested in reading more about fennel, why not check out Five Ways to Eat Fresh Fennel by our friends over at Food & Think.