Fennel is one of the least beloved vegetables in my family. It will get nibbled at if a dip is in the vicinity, and it will even be appreciated in an orange and fennel salad – but that’s about it. I vaguely remember roasting fennel with tomatoes and olives following a Delia Smith recipe but, again, that was eons ago and the fact that I don’t remember the recipe says it all. More recently, I seem to remember roasting some fennel in the oven but had to disguise it under a good amount of bechamel and parmesan cheese. I can only draw the conclusion that, when cooked, fennel always needs some kind of dressing up or ‘cover’.
Yesterday I decided to imbue this rather spiffing looking vegetable with a ‘cover’ that might distract from its aniseed-like imposition. Hence the following recipe. Result? Favourite daughter liked it, favourite son continued to give it the no no. There is no pleasing some people ! As for me? Mmmm. It lacked a bit of ‘wow’ factor but I think it could make a very pleasing buffet starter. I think adding a bit of mortadella might do the trick, I’ll try it next time and let you know.
It is, however, rather quick and very easy to make and that alone gets a lot of points from me. See for yourselves:
Cook the fennel in simmering salted water for about five minutes, or until vaguely tender (do not let it cook to a mush). Drain well. Add some olive oil to a saucepan and cook the fennel. Cook and toss it until it browns. Add a sprig of fresh fennel frond for colour … And bring to the table.Have some ricotta lying cunningly in wait on the table and ask each diner to avail themselves to as little or as much ricotta as they would like to indulge in. A little bit of your best olive oil, a pinch of salt, a sprinkle of pepper and … voilà !
P.S. Just last week, at an Italian cooking class I was doing in Vancouver, we decided to present this recipe and we jazzed it up a little in a most delicious way (thank you Libby !). We added toasted pistachio, a teensy drizzle of honey, and freshly grated orange zest.