Are you a fennel fan? I was only introduced to it about seven years ago and quickly became a convert. And if you didn’t know, there are rumours that fennel has two genders – some believe that there are female and male bulbs…
In a flight of fancy a few years ago and after a three course meal based on fennel, I actually penned an ode to this wonderful vegetable. I do warn you in advance that it really is a piece of trite doggerel, especially upon re-reading it but had to share…
What is this?
A vegetable, you say
Both that and this way
Ah well, I reply
Such a thing does exist
Something never to be missed
If someone offers you fennel
Don’t wait to ask its sex
Take it in whatever form
I promise you’ll not be vexed
Raw, steamed, braised or BBQ’d
It inspires joy and passion
In risotto or simply stewed
Keep it secret before it becomes the fashion
OK…OK…I will never be a poet! It all falls apart in the second stanza….
However, I do truly love the versatility of fennel – the sweet subtle anise-like crunchiness in salads and the way it softens like onions or celery into a sweet lovely smooth side dish when you add heat to it.
One of my favourite ways to prepare fennel is on the BBQ. You can just lay half a bulb (once cored after cutting off the fronds at the top & brushing the open end with olive oil) on the grill but I like to prepare it so it carmelizes a little more.
Carmelized Fennel on the BBQ (for two)
Cut off the fronds, remove the outside layers and core a large fennel bulb, then chop into large pieces. Toss with 1 TBS of sugar, 2 TBS of olive oil, 1 TBS of balsamic vinegar (adjust quantities for taste and size of bulb).
Pre-heat a cast-iron pan on the grill (you can also use the oven at 450 degrees).
Add the fennel to the heated pan along with the marinade & then stir frequently. The longer you can leave it on the grill, the better. You are looking for soft caramel brown pieces (usually about 30 minutes to get this). Take off the grill and enjoy as a wonderful side dish!
Thank you for bearing through my ode, but please join me in my celebration of this great vegetable!