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Braised Fennel with Olive Oil and Garlic

Braised Fennel with Olive Oil and Garlic
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.

Ingredients:

  • 4 fennel bulbs, about 2 lb. total
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. ground fennel seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lemon peel strip, about 2 inches long
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges for garnish

Directions:

Cut off the stalks and feathery fronds from the fennel bulbs. Reserve the stalks for another use. Chop enough of the feathery fronds to measure 1 Tbs. 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-low, add the water and lemon peel, cover and cook until the fennel is tender, 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, then taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the sauce over the fennel and garnish with lemon wedges. Sprinkle with the chopped fennel tops and garnish with the whole fennel fronds. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Autumn, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).