I’ve come to the conclusion that fennel is one of the most under-appreciated vegetables. Raw, it tastes like slightly nutty licorice. I love its crunchy texture, and it tastes great eating as pinzimonio–the Italian tradition of dipping fresh vegetables into olive oil, vinegar, and, sometimes, a little seasoning. That being said, it’s great cooked as well. The licorice flavor mellows out and, when baked, the bulb becomes so tender that it literally melts in your mouth.
When buying fennel, make sure you look for clean, white bulbs with no bruising and dark fronds that have not wilted. When cooking, discard the green stems and the fronds. You can save the fronds for a salad or insert both stems and fronds into the cavity of a roast chicken for a different flavor (my mom is particular fond of using them this way). Today’s side dish takes mere minutes to put together, and you can prep the rest of your meal while it bakes. The recipe is also easy to halve if you are cooking for fewer people.
I also recommend giving David Rocco’s website a look. He has some fantastic recipes that they are very authentic and pretty simple!
Recipe taken from David Rocco
- 2 fennel bulbs, rinsed, trimmed, and cut into eighths
- 4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated parmesan or Grana Padano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Bring about 3 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add in the fennel and allow to cook until fork tender (between five to ten minutes). Drain.
- In a baking dish, drizzle fennel with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with cheese and breadcrumbs.
- Bake uncovered for half-an-hour or until golden brown and bubbly.
- Serve warm.