Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fennel Cooked in Wine

I always think about fennel in the spring, perhaps because, traditionally, it is a late spring or summer vegetable.

Fennel is a nice vegetable, rich in folic acid and minerals, but not always appreciated because of its strong aroma. It can be added to fresh salads when you feel its crunchiness and flavor, or it can be cooked. Personally, I prefer it cooked.

Some time ago, I shared a recipe for fennel baked in béchamel sauce with goat cheese. It is a lovely but rather rich dish. So I was looking for a somewhat lighter fennel recipe where fennel could be an accompaniment to meat or fish, and not a dish in itself. I got inspired by a recipe for fennel cooked in wine, which I once read in some Italian cookbook.

I made two versions of that dish with some modifications. First, I cooked fennel in red wine. This way it became heavier, changed color, and tasted almost as red cabbage, which would make it a wonderful accompaniment to red meats. The other time, I made the same recipe using white wine. Much lighter but still well defined in taste, thanks to the sourness of the wine, and spicy because of the red pepper flakes.

This second recipe became my favorite among all fennel dishes I tried so far and I made it already several times. The dish is easy and can be made ahead and reheated at the last moment. It tastes great with all meats, also grilled, but particularly with delicate fish.

Fennel Cooked in Wine

3 large fennel bulbs,
2 tbsp olive oil,
4 garlic cloves,
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves,
1–1 and 1/2 cup dry white wine,
3 tbsp pitted black olives, sliced,
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut fennel in half and then into thick slices. Put it in a large heavy duty pot and add oil and garlic. Fry for about 10 minutes over medium heat stirring from time to time until fennel becomes gold.
2. Add rosemary leaves, olives, and red pepper flakes. Mix well.
3. Pour wine into fennel and simmer it uncovered for about 15-20 minutes. You may add extra wine during cooking if fennel is still too hard and wine already evaporates, but when the fennel is tender turn up the heat and let the sauce reduce.

4. Season with salt and pepper and serve.