Fennel is related to a group of herbs that includes anise, cumin, dill, coriander and caraway. In the vegetable world, however, fennel is recognized as having a taste all its own, one often compared to licorice. Fresh fennel, which has a strong anise flavor and crunchy texture when raw, becomes mellow and meltingly soft when braised. When I saw fennel featured at my local market this week I remembered how much I enjoy it! This is my recipe for a simple and "Easy Braised Fennel With Garlic!" It was intended to be a terrific vegetable side but truthfully I have been eating it right out of the bowl as a snack as well!
- 4 fennel bulbs, about 2 pounds
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 cups water
- 1 lemon peel strip, about 2 inches long
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives for garnish
- Cut off the stalks and fronds from the fennel bulbs. Reserve the stalks for another use. Chop enough of the fronds to measure 1 tablespoon and reserve some of the remaining fronds for garnish. Set aside. Remove any damaged outer leaves from the bulbs and discard. Cut each bulb into quarters lengthwise and trim away the tough inner core.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute; do not brown. Add the fennel quarters and the fennel seeds. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the water and lemon peel, cover and cook until the fennel is tender approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fennel to a serving platter and keep warm. Increase the heat to high and cook until only 3/4 cup liquid remains, about 5 minutes. Discard the lemon peel. Add the lemon juice and kalamata olives, then taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle the sauce over the fennel. Sprinkle with the chopped fennel tops and garnish with the whole fennel fronds. Serve immediately.
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