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Sauteed Fennel

Alice Waters, writes in her book, The Art of Simple Food:

"Fennel is among the most versatile of vegetables: it's good whether it's eaten raw in salads, or cooked in any number of ways, and I use it as an aromatic vegetable, often instead of celery, in mirepoix (diced carrot, onion, and celery) and other preparations.  Cultivated fennel forms a compact, pale white bulb that is topped with fibrous green stalks and feathery leaves.  The flavor is reminiscent of anise or licorice.  Look for firm, undamaged bulbs that have no signs of drying or shrinking.  The fronds should be fresh and vibrant.

To prepare fennel, trim away the darker fibrous stalks and bottom end, and remove any outer layers that are tough or blemished.  Fennel should be cut close to the time it is needed, as it will oxiize and brown over time.  Cover cut fennel with a damp cloth to protect it.  Many recipes ask you to remove the core, but I don't find it necessary; on the contrary, I like the taste of the core and find it quite tender.  The feathery dark green fennel leaves can be stripped from the stalks and chopped to use as a flavorful garnish."

Sauteed Fennel

Cut off the leafy tops and fibrous stalks and trim off the root ends from the fennel bulbs.  If you want, save some of the feathery leaves to chop and use later to garnish the dish before serving.  Peel away any bruised outer layers.  Cut the bulbs in half and then slice fairly thin.  Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Pour in enough oil to coat the bottom generously and add the cut fennel.  Let the fennel brown for a few minutes undisturbed.  Start tossing or stirring occasionally and continue to cook until the fennel is tender.  Season with salt, fresh-ground black pepper, and the chopped fennel leaves.  Finish with a squeeze of lemon jiuice or a pinch of dried chile flakes.

The Art of Simple Food also has great recipes for both Braised Fennel and Fennel Gratin.

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