SAUTÉED FENNEL (FINOCCHIO SALTATO IN PADELLA) - A SIMPLE AND DELICIOUS FIND WITH BONUS RECIPE

    


    Growing up in Italy, I remember always disliking cooked fennel, fennel salad, and anything that may have had fennel in it. (... Well this is not a good way to start a blogpost if I want you to even try considering cooking fennel, right? But keep on reading, because I can assure you that this recipe will completely change the opinion one may have about this underrated veg.)

    Ode to fennel...    

    First of all, I would like to introduce you to the wonderful and hidden properties of fennel and how good it actually is for your body. Fennel is a flowering species that is part of the carrot family and which was originally indigenous to the Mediterranean lands, but is now widely available world-wide in areas along the coasts or riverbeds. It is one of those foods that I call "complete" as it is full of a combination of vitamins (such as potassium, folate, vitamin C, B-6, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, and many more), it offers plenty of fiber, and has no cholesterol. Moreover, its nutritional and health properties vary from anti-inflammatory to digestive aid, to providing natural estrogen. All in all, this is definitely the one vegetable that you do not want to avoid, especially if you are looking to start or continue a healthy lifestyle!

    Not knowing all of these great things about fennel of course, and as a very young student, I can still remember all the excuses I would find to leave the school's lunchroom, when all of a sudden, the pungent smell of licorice would spread through the lunchroom making us kids all cringe and wish that it could have been a sick or a snow day. But as I look back at those wonder years, these memories bring forth even more reminiscences of other foods that we as kids considered "nasty" and it in fact makes me appreciate more the dishes that the Italian schools served to their pupils, and which are now considered some of the most appreciated gourmet specialties that everyone raves about. Back then, children would grimace at the sight of minestrone (correctly pronounced mee-neh-stroh-neh, without removing the "eh" sound at the end), risotto allo zafferano (saffron rice), beef stew, tuna-stuffed tomatoes and so forth, and yet nowadays many restaurant customers would pay tens of dollars for a menu such as this!

    So, after reminiscing back to my dreaded youth's school lunches, a thought started forming in my head that it was my duty to give cooked fennel a second chance, and that I needed to find ways to give it a new life in my cuisine by reinventing the cooking process and eliminating the smell and the taste that I so used to despise. It must be also said that many Italians are used to eating it either in salads (see pics and bonus recipe below), boiling it, or even using its seeds for digestive elixirs (I myself raised my children on fennel seed infusions to sooth their unhappy tummies, which later turned out to be due to Coeliac ;( 

    My simple recipe (my apologies for the necessary but long preface...) will absolutely make you fall in love with fennel, and you will be able to fool anyone into thinking that it's something totally different.  So, go ahead and take my word for it, I promise you will be amazed!

SAUTÉED FENNEL  - FINOCCHIO SALTATO IN PADELLA

(Serves 4)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lg. fennel head or 2 medium ones (save the fronds for later to decorate the dish)
  • 1 clove of garlic chopped
  • 2 tbs EVOO
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp of ginger
  • 1 full lime
  • a few leaves of dried or fresh parsley or rosemary


Let's get cooking...
  • In a non-stick or stainless steel pan heat the EVOO on low, and sauté the chopped garlic until it becomes translucent
  • After washing the fennel, remove the stalks, and set the fronds aside 
  • Slice the fennel in half longways, and carefully remove the entire hard part in the middle as if you were cutting the sides of a triangle
  • Slice the fennel uniformly to the desired thickness (I have noticed that thicker slices render less water)
  • Place it in the pan, and add the spices, herbs, salt and pepper 
  • Cook on medium for 1-2 minutes, add the juice of a full lime, and stir (at this point of the cooking, you may start smelling the sweet aroma of licorice, but as soon as the acids are broken down by the lime juice, the smell will dissipate, and so will the licorice taste)
  • Keep cooking on medium and keep covered for 15- 20 minutes, stirring once in a while to make sure it is not sticking to the pan
  • Option:  5 minutes before taking it off the stove, you can pour 2 tbs of white wine, and let it cook uncovered for the remaining of the time
  • The dish is ready when the fennel is looking translucent and has softened, while still feeling crunchy to the touch of the wooden spoon
  • Sprinkle the fresh fronds, some more EVOO, and fresh parsley
  • Serve hot or cold (if you like white balsamic vinegar, it is a great match for this dish)
🍽🍽🍽🍽🍽🍽

SICILIAN-STYLE FENNEL AND ORANGE SALAD 
(INSALATA ALLA SICILIANA DI ARANCE E FINOCCHIO)
(Serves 4)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lg. fennel head or 2 medium ones (save the fronds for later to decorate the dish)
  • 2 tbs EVOO
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 full lime
  • 1 or 2  lg. oranges (Navel or blood oranges work very well)
  • a few leaves of dried or fresh parsley 
Let's get slicing...
  • After washing the fennel, remove the stalks, and set the fronds aside 
  • Slice the fennel in half longways (see picture above) and carefully remove the entire hard part in the middle as if you were cutting the sides of a triangle
  • Slice the fennel uniformly to the desired thickness (for this recipe the thinner the slices, the better)
  • Arrange the sliced fennel in a big serving plate 
  • Wash the orange(s), and remove the skin with a sharp paring knife
  • Cut the orange(s) into slices, and then in half again, and add to the fennel
  • Sprinkle with the fronds, salt, pepper, EVOO and the lime juice (lemon, white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar are good substitutes)
  • Stir and serve right away, or place in the refrigerator until ready to serve
...Are you intrigued yet? I truly hope so!

Buon Appetito!
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Comments

Lydezia said…
Loving all your recipes Barbara
Lydezia said…
Loving all your recipes Barbara
@ Lydezia: Thank you so much for your support, we appreciate your nice feedback!