It sort of rolls off your tongue when you say it in Italian. It sounds way sexier than fennel which to me conjures up the image of an overweight waitress at a road stop diner. Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but really, try saying “I’m having finocchio for dinner tonight”. Doesn’t that sound divine?
Fennel is an underused vegetable in this country. While it seems to share equal time with eggplant and peppers in Italy, we don’t give it the same respect. At best we buy it as a novelty, but let’s face it , lots of us don’t exactly know what to do with it. Also, the taste seems a bit, well, foreign to us. If you grew up eating anise, drinking absinthe or ouzo maybe it would seem friendlier. But a licorice flavoured vegetable? Technically it’s not even a vegetable-despite having a large bulb, but a herb. Maybe that’s what confuses us so much.
One of the tastiest ways of preparing fennel is oven roasting with a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This sweetens it and mellows out the strong taste usually associated with fennel. But eating thinly sliced raw in salads and side dishes are equally satisfying, especially when you can get your hands on young fresh fennel early on in the season (typically July-September).
Finally you can pickle fennel! Add some fresh mint and dill seed to your vinegar brine and eccolo, you have a crunchy, tangy, slightly sweet concoction that can be tossed into salads, used as lamb burger topping, scattered inside falafel wraps or tacos.
Tell me what you would use them for!