Season: Home grown, May to September
Sometimes called Florence fennel, or its charming Italian name is finocchio. Fennel is like fat, bulbous celery, with the same crunchy texture but with a marked aniseed flavour. Fennel can be thinly sliced and eaten raw in salads, or shaved very finely with a mandolin and dressed with vinaigrette. It’s also very good cooked and served as a vegetable.
To prepare fennel: First trim off the green shoot at the top – if the fronds aren’t too droopy you can use them as a garnish. Then cut it diagonally into a pointed shape. Next, slice off the root part at the other end and remove any outer toughened, or brown, layers. Slice the bulb in half and then again into quarters. Now you can take a little of the stalky core out, but not all because you want the layers, including the inner green part, to stay intact.
To cook fennel: Cut it into quarters, steam it for 10 minutes, or until tender, then have a frying pan with 1 teaspoon each of oil and butter really hot and sauté the fennel till it’s golden brown at the edges.
Finally, sprinkle with a tablespoon of freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano) while it’s still in the pan and let it rest for a few seconds, then serve with a little more grated Parmesan sprinkled over and the chopped feathery fronds if there are any. Serves 2.
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