I like to cook according to the seasons. Not only is it environmentally and economically sound, it provides a lovely sense of connectedness to nature. And cold weather vegetables such as pumpkin, zucchini and fennel tend to suit roasting, baking and stewing. Nice work, Mother Nature.
On my way home tonight I popped into my local greengrocer for a few cheap vegetables and the fennel caught my eye. Fifty cents per bulb? Sure, why not.
I came across this recipe for baked fennel with parmesan by Rosa Mitchell (of Journal Canteen) and, as I’d just bought a lovely piece of parmigiano reggiano from my local deli The Larder, I thought I’d give it a go. And as I had a bowlful of knobbly home grown lemons handy, decided to add a little zest as well.
I didn’t bother to boil the fennel before baking it as the recipe suggests. I simply sliced one bulb of fennel into half then sliced each half into 6 wedges, and lay them in a baking dish. Then I added a few glugs of good olive oil and the zest of a lemon. I covered the dish for the first 15 minutes of baking (at 200C), as this has the same (well, similar) effect of boiling it. Then I uncovered it, added a couple of tablespoons of grated parmesan, a few fennel fronds, and returned it to the oven.
After another 10 minutes or so I took it out, and the fragrance was heavenly – sweet fennel, the freshness of lemon and a slight whiff of cheese toasty.
The fennel had the most gorgeous bits of melted crispy cheese attached. And it was a perfect match for my Italian pork meatballs served with lemon and cream sauce. Mr Black was a very happy man 🙂