Friday, January 25, 2013

Discovering the Versatile Fennel | Roasted Fennel with Parmesan



I go through food phases once in a while. Or maybe they're kicks. I don't know. I just know that every once in a while, I latch onto one particular food and cook the death out of it. There was the bean phase -- cannelini, black, pintos, garbanzos. And  then peppers: jalapenos, poblanos, serranos, up and down the Scoville scale. And we can't forget the squash phase.

Now it's fennel's turn in the hopper. I've cooked with fennel a lot, the seeds at least. They are a standard when I cook with sausage (which is often, since Mr. Rosemary thinks it's a food group unto its own.) And I add it to stews and soups. But the whole thing? Nope. Never.

The reason is that it's usually not readily available around here. Until lately. Now, I seem to find it every time I shop. It's partly the season; partly due to the speed of commercial transit in this country.
                                       

It all started at Christmas time. I was planning on serving simple roasted vegetables -- broccoli and cauliflower -- to go along with the fussier pork Wellington. (A post for another day.)  I happened upon a couple bulbs of fennel and spontaneously decided that roasted fennel would go on the menu, too, as I was expecting other enthusiastic taste tasters for dinner.

"What's that?," asked granddaughter Emma.

"You've had that before," answered Uncle Dan. "It's fennel."

"Hmm, . . . . looks different," she said.

It was probably because I'd sliced it vertically instead of chopped. But if I was serving a different vegetable, I was looking for some "Ta-da" drama!

It was a surprising success at dinner. I delighted in it, everyone at least sampled it along with all our other goodies, and Emma had seconds.

Since then, I've purchased fennel a number of times and have added it to stews, soups and casseroles  chopped it into salads, and roasted it some more.

Fennel has a unique taste. Some say it tastes like licorice, but I think it's more of a cross between celery and onion, with a slightly sweet cast. I read an article on Culinate that described fennel as "a wispy, aristocratic" vegetable. Pretty poetic. The fronds of the fennel bulb resemble dill and can be used chopped finely like dill in just about anything you use dill in.

It is remarkably versatile and I found another article in which the cook/author outlines "Twelve Ways to Cook Fennel, " a very helpful resource. And just today I found a blog post on Stacey Snacks with a recipe for a fennel gratin, the next thing on my fennel crusade.

If you haven't tried it yet, you'll be surprised, especially roasted.


Roasted Fennel with Parmesan
only slightly adapted from  Giada Di Laurentis
(I sliced it vertically; her recipe said to slice it horizontally!)

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 fennel bulbs, cut horizontally into 1/3-inch thick slices, fronds reserved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly shredded Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly oil the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. (I lightly sprayed foil with olive oil.) Arrange the fennel in the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then with the Parmesan. Drizzle with the oil. Bake until the fennel is fork-tender and the top is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Chop enough fennel fronds to equal 2 teaspoons, then sprinkle over the roasted fennel.

54 comments:

  1. I have had a great love for fennel for quite a while. It does taste wonderful. I have also roasted it with proscuitto for a little extra zing!!

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    1. It's my new favorite vegetable, Susan. I'l definitely be trying it with proscuitto.

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  2. We love roasted fennel. Not so much the raw because the raw does have a licorice taste. I think it an elegant and different offering to family and guests.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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    1. Makes me wonder what other great food I've been missing out on all these years, Bonnie.

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  3. This looks lovely, maybe it is time to give fennel another try. I'm one of those who thinks it tastes like licorice, not a taste I care for.

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    1. Yes, Mary, licorice belongs to candy, not veggies!

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  4. that looks so simple and delish.

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  5. I have not used Fennel for ages, but this recipe looks mouthwatering.
    It was inspiring, will try it out this weekend!

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    1. Surprised and delighted me in its simplicity -- and the Parmesan made it special.

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  6. Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables. I love it in most forms. I love crunchy raw slices and I love it roasted. It's also nice pureed in soups.

    Roasting has a transformative power with fennel. I remember serving it once for dinner and my father, who said afterwards that he never liked fennel, didn't know what it was. Roasting had mellowed out the flavor. I do taste a bit of that licorice, and I assume he does too, but I don't mind it.

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    1. Roasting has almost magical powers on just about every vegetable, doesn't it?

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  7. I would love this recipe, I am also a big fan of fennel-love it both raw and cooked!
    Have a wonderful weekend;-)

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    1. I'm a new fennel fan, but I'm sure a faithful one.

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  8. Hehe, I'm the same way with getting on "kicks" with different ingredients! It looks like you're on a good one, YUM!

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    1. Are there more ways to use eggplant than I know of, I wonder?

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  9. I go back and forth on whether I really like fennel but if there's any dish that could convince me it's this. Roasted it to caramelized perfection sounds fabulous!

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    1. I'm feeling that way about cilantro, Joanne. Haven't made up my mind. Sometimes I do, more often, I don't. But it's necessary in salsa!

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  10. I know what you mean about cooking a new favourite to death - and then you get sick of it for a while. You have persuaded me to try this dish, Rosemary. I cannot live without fennel seed (for curries and breads). The bulb is not my favourite but then it has never looked so good. Your description of it as a cross between and onion and celery makes me rethink it.

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    1. I've been having a ball experimenting. Have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by the taste and texture of the roasted fennel. But I was really surprised by how much I liked it chopped raw in a a salad, Hester. Give it a go!

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  11. This has definitely persuaded me to use fennel more my friend :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hope you do. (And happy belated Australia Day!)

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  12. you know what, i go through them too. i have a theory that it's my body's way of telling me i really need some nutrient or rather that particular veg can supply. who knows if i'm right, but go nuts! or, go fennel! ;)

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    1. Apparently, fennel is full of good stuff, although I can't remember what just now. You're right . . . just must have needed it!

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  13. I've never roasted fennel, and don't often cook with it. I can't wait to give this a try. It looks like a fantastic side dish.

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    1. I think roasting just about any vegetable sweetens it in a way no tother cooking method can. Try it!

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  14. I think it the perfect winter vegetable. Hearty and not afraid to be bold. You've tamed it perfectly but it doesn't yell "defeat."

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    1. I'm so glad I latched onto it. But wouldn't you know it? At the store yesterday -- and me with a bona fide list -- no fennel!

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  15. That sounds delicious! One of my favorite fennel recipes is a Thomas Keller recipe with fennel, and chicken thighs braised in a white wine sauce. The smell alone is heaven!

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    1. I'm going to have to try that, Jen. Thanks for stopping by. Glad you're back!

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  16. I think that you did wonderfully! I like the recipe and I can imagine nice aroma once it's roasted!

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    1. I'm not sure if it was the fennel or the Parmesan I smelled -- but it did smell good!

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  17. So glad you found your way to fennel, something that was always on our holiday table. But it was usually served raw, which is when it tastes most like licorice. I love to make it gratin style as you did, but I usually parboil it first.

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    1. Although I knew fennel is common in Italian cooking, I just hadn't seen it much in local stores. Is the world getting smaller?!?

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  18. I absolutely adore fennel, particularly in salads--I've never seen this particular preparation, though. It looks delicious for when fennel is in season!

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    1. I liked it raw, too. Added a very nice crunch, different from celery, and a lovely flavor.

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    1. I hope you come back! Next up is canneloni!

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  20. I love fennel and have even grown it in my garden before. I have a fennel bulb in my refrigerator now waiting for tonights dinner.

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    1. I'm going to reserve some garden space this year. My thumb's not the greenest, but I'm willing to give it a shot. Thanks for stopping, Karen.

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  21. I love fennel and have grown it in my garden. There is a bulb waiting in my refrigerator for tonights dinner.

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    1. I'll visit your blog to see if maybe you did something new with it, Karen.

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  22. Rosemary, my family loves fennel as well.I love your recipe! You asked about jalapenos. You can, of course, use fresh, but I've found their heat to be inconsistent, so for a recipe such as the dip I use the canned variety. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

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    1. Well, Mary, thanks for the info about the jalapenos. I did make the dip,for the Super Bowl, but I did find buried in my pantry some jarred jalapenos. I sprinkled some fresh jalapenos on top and placed a pepper top, like a hat, on the dip, so people knew it might be hot. The little tail reminded me of your jalapeno "blind mice"!

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  23. I grow fennel in the summer and am always looking for new ways to enjoy it. This looks wonderful.

    I call my food kicks "obsession". I go in and out of them mostly, but sometimes they last for years....

    Glad to know I'm not the only one!

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    1. Me, too! I will try and grow fennel in my garden this year, too.

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  24. I've scared Bill off of fennel for life after making a marvelous pork dish with fennel and artichokes. But I'll still toss it in with my roasted veggies...in fact, you've inspired me to grab some on my next grocery store run. Your dish looks wonderful!

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    1. I swear . . . our husbands must have some of the same genes somewhere. (Or is it just a stubborn masculine thing?!?) Although Mr. Rosemary eagerly ate the fennel at Christmastime, since then, he's squinted his eyes and said, "What's this?!?"

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  25. i totally go through similar phases! and i would love to latch on to fennel if only i could find it more often! i love absolutely anything roasted. it makes fans of the harshest of critics. and adding parmesan? genius!

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    1. I'm just delighted that I have been able to find fennel more often. ANd, you're right, roasting has made Brussels sprouts lots of new friends, too.

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  26. I must admit to not usually roasting fennel, but I would love to try it. I love it shaved and in a salad so do love its unique flavour.

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    1. I haven't tried shaving Brussels sprouts in a salad. I think I'll add that to my next veggie experiment.

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  27. Oh, I love fennel. I wish there was more of it around at my grocery store. I love that it is delicious roasted, sauteed, and raw.

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    1. I buy it every time I find it, Sarah, and the menu plan adjusts accordingly.

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