No one is happier than us that spring has arrived, but the new season does provide a few cooking challenges. After a full winter of kale, we tend to go overboard with spring produce at the farmers market- so we have piles of asparagus, artichokes and fennel to cook every week. We are OK with the asparagus and artichokes, we have plenty of good recipes for those veggies. But what are we supposed to do with all this fennel?
If you don’t cook with fennel, it is a large, layered white bulb with a fluffy green top. It is in season spring and early summer (there is also a fall crop in some regions). Fennel has a crisp texture and tastes like licorice, or “anise”, if you want to be nice. With anise as the lead flavor of fennel, it becomes a challenge to find a compelling use for the stuff. Fennel is tasty shaved on salads or as a minor component in fish stews, but if you go a bit crazy and buy four bulbs, you need a dish that uses it all. And it would be nice if it actually tasted good.
Happily, we found a dish that doesn’t just use up the fennel, it really rocks– you will actually want to buy fennel on a regular basis. And it is easy, too. You simply caramelize the fennel. That’s it. Fennel, olive oil, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon. A sharp knife, a hot pan and 20 minutes. And you suddenly get a great snack or side dish that features sweet, crispy fennel with just a nice touch of the anise flavor. Continue reading