This is the case of braised fennels, a recipe from the cucina povera (lit. poor cooking) Italian tradition that gets a boost from lemon zest – a sour, unexpected note that marries perfectly with the mildly sweet flavor of cooked fennel – and, of course, the right serving vessel.
Despite fennels being an unusual choice in the US – far from the "everyday veggies" that are broccoli or green beans – this Mediterranean vegetable known as finocchio has been used for centuries in Italy. In the peninsula, we like to serve fennel on its own – raw, sliced in a fresh salad with vibrant citrus segments and briny black olives – as a side dish – cooked to accompany pork, chicken, sausage and lamb – or as an ingredient in hearty soups (minestrone) and stews.
Intrigued? Look for fresh, plump mid-sized fennels and bring them home to try our simple and delicious braised fennel recipe.
Vegetarian friendly, Midweek meals, Sides and Salads
2 fennel bulbs
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup / 120 ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp Pernod or white wine
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp finely chopped fennel fronds or dill
Remove most of the green stems and make sure to shave off the brown root area while keeping the bulb whole.
Cut the bulb into wedges or quarters, and place in a bowl.
In a serving frying pan, add the olive oil, heat on medium, and sear the quartered bulbs on each side for about 1-2 minutes (or just until slightly caramelized).
Turn the heat to medium-low, then add the white wine, stock, fennel seeds, lemon zest, salt and pepper and cover the pan with a lid.
Allow the fennel to slowly braise covered for about 15-20 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork, stirring occasionally.
Once the fennel is tender, remove the lid, increase the heat and reduce the remaining liquid into a sauce.
Garnish with chopped fennel fronds or fresh dill and more lemon zest.