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Have you tried ... fennel?
[January 24, 2013]

Have you tried ... fennel?

Jan 24, 2013 (Tulsa World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The first time I tried fennel, it was the star ingredient in a gratin.

And it was good.

The mild licorice flavor of the crunchy vegetable held up to and complemented the cheese. But anything goes well with cheese, right We found the recipe in an Italian cookbook and have made it several times since.

The bulb and stalks of the fennel plant can be braised, grilled, sauteed or sliced thinly and served in salads. Fennel stalks can also be used for making vegetable stock.

Fennel pairs well with fish, pork and chicken and makes a great winter salad.

ORANGE AND FENNEL SALAD 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced 2 medium oranges, peeled 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar Salt and pepper 2 tablespoons sweetened dried cranberries 1. Place the sliced fennel in a salad bowl. Slice oranges to divide flesh sections and add to bowl.

2. Drizzle with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper. Toss, top with sweetened cranberries and serve.

- adapted from Food Network, by Robin Miller FENNEL GRATIN 2 pounds fennel bulbs, about 3-4 bulbs Salt 3-4 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces) 1/2 cup bread crumbs 2 teaspoons fresh thyme 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 2 ounces) Chopped fennel fronds, for garnish 1. Cut off the fronds and stems of the fennel and save them for another dish; they are a great addition to stocks and broths. Cut the bulbs in quarters, then 1-2 inch pieces; discard the woody cores.

2. Grease a casserole pan or gratin pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

3. Boil the fennel in a medium pot of salty water for 5-6 minutes, or until the fennel is just about tender. Drain well and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil.

4. Mix the Parmesan, thyme and bread crumbs, then mix half of that mixture with the fennel. Add the fennel to the casserole in an even layer. Top with the mozzarella cheese, then the rest of the Parmesan-bread crumb mixture. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top.

5. Cover the casserole and bake for 20 minutes. Take the cover off and bake until the cheese is well-browned, about 15 more minutes. Let the gratin rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh fennel fronds.

- adapted from Have you tried ...

From funky fruits and vegetables to the hottest food trend on the market. You want to try it and we do, too. We'll even suggest some ways to try it.

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