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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fennel or Finocchio - It’s perfect for the autumn table.

All photos - Copyright - ©2011 - La Casa e Il Giardino – picasaweb

Fennel is a perennial plant (often cultivated as an annual) that grows wild throughout the Mediterranean and California.  The sweet bulb fennel we find in the produce section at the grocer is known as Florence fennel or finocchio in Italian. It's is a powerhouse food: every part is edible, from the common bulb to the stalk, foliage, seeds, and even pollen, which is harvested from the plant's yellow blossoms.

If you never tasted or cooked with fennel, now is the time to fall in love with it.

Fennel's subtle, anise flavor works just fine on its own, but does wonders when combined with other foods.  The stalks tend to be fibrous, like celery.   I add them to stocks, roasts and braises.

Chicken soup with fennel (brodo di gallina)
A simple salad of oranges, red onion and lemon vinaigrette has more zing with the addition of crunchy, raw fennel.

Blood orange and fennel salad
Insalata di arance sanguine e finocchio

A mixed seafood salad has more flavor when chopped fennel fronds are included in the ingredients.
Seafood salad - Insalata di pesce

My sausages contain fennel seeds. The slightly sweet anise flavor of the seeds complements the hot spices in the sausages.
Home-made sausages

What would my porchetta taste like without the aroma of wild fennel powder?

My suggestion, if you passed fennel by in the produce section, take a second look.