Tuesday, June 10, 2003
posted by Julie |
Went to market last night, kind of stupid with jet lag. That kind of bone tired where you can't really understand what you're saying or remember what you just said, and what you were doing or just did. I was sort of weaving throught the aisles on a specific hunt for dog food when I doubled back through the produce section.
I was looking for a nice head of cauliflower among head after head that had yellowed and grown spotty, when I heard those produce sprayers go off in the next bin and turned to see a cascade of fresh, white, now dewy bulbs.
Comic in the spread and reach of their stems, with ferny tops, and bottoms that spread out like real womens' child-bering hips.
Oh man, Fennel.
With great difficulty, I bagged a couple of bulbs in bags not built for fennel, and carted my prize through the check out lane. The clerk hadn't seen fennel yet, so I told her what the stuff was. The woman behind me had never tried fennel either, so I found myself breaking off a stalk so they could smell, touch, taste the spicy anisette flavor, and feel the crisp juciness of this cousin to celery and carrots.
The two in the grocery store gave me two distinct reactions. One a revelatory "Heeeeeyyy!" Clearly this one likes the black jelly beans in her Easter basket. The other, "Huh, that's interesting." Not a licorice fan.
And fennel lovers and leavers tend to fall out just that way. This veggie has a distinctly anise flavor. Not sweet anise, but spicy. A bit peppery in its raw state, it stews and sautés and stir-fries and roasts and poaches beautifully to be served all on its own, in a sauce, in a mélange of other vegetables (especially leeks and new potatoes), or in a stir fry with any meat.
I like it best at its most simple, the stems and leaves set aside to flavor a soup. Just clean and slice the bulbs into half-inch slices you sauté very slowly in olive oil or butter, seasoned with a little salt and white pepper. Keep cooking them at very low heat until they start to brown. Remove from heat and cover. Let them rest and become tender. Oh my. You could eat something else, too, or make a meal of that.
Or try a salad. Use a mandoline or knife to cut the cleaned bulb into really thin slices. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roughly chop some fresh parsely leaves, and slice a fresh peach as thinly as you can. Toss these in too.
Or sauté slivers with Italian sausage or pork tenderloin.
Or baste with olive oil and grill next to your chicken.
Or slice and serve with other raw veggies as an appetizer or to include in lunch bags tomorrow.
Another good thing we can eat without care.
Gotta love that,
All about fennel
386 ways to enjoy your bulbs
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