Fennel: Friend or Foe?

May 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

The garden behind the kitchen we use on Mondays has become overrun by fennel.  This weekend in my garden at home I pulled up fennel with roots at long as my four year-old. I once looked kindly upon this herb (or is it a vegetable?).  Sure, it wasn’t invited, but it brought something to the party.  Feathery fronds, a lovely scent when I picked it… But lately I’ve noticed fennel really oversteps it’s boundaries.  It’s downright invasive.  Have some class, fennel.  This wild stuff doesn’t even seem to have a bulb.  What’s up with that?  It barely makes a dent in fennel population control, but I have found a delicious pasta recipe that uses young fennel fronds.  I’m making the most of fennel, fennel everywhere.

This pasta recipe is from Alice Waters – it is in her Vegetables book.  It’s very simple and straightforward and deeeelicious.  You blanch a few handfuls fennel fronds, then dice them.   I use the same water to boil the pasta – since it’s already hot, and I’m impatient.  Mince a few anchovy fillets and a couple of garlic cloves – as much or as little suits your taste.  I love a lot of each.  In a sautee pan warm 3/4 C extra virgin olive oil over medium-low heat and cook the anchovies and garlic gently – don’t let the garlic brown.  After a few minutes add the fennel and cooked pasta and toss everything to coat it in oil.  Add a bit of ground pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.  I like to top the pasta with toasted breadcrumbs –  they add a very nice texture.  My finicky four year-old loves this dish, and so do I.  That’s a wonder.

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