This one I found in the magazine, and I made it on Sunday for my birthday dinner.
For two, you need
- four bulbs (is that the right term?) of fennel
- 3 - 5 table spoons olive oil
- 4 - 6 table spoons cream
- salt, pepper, chili powder or some other hot spice
- 40 - 50 g grated or shaved parmesan (or any other type of cheese fit for baking)
Preheat the oven to 190 C (370 F).
Remove outer layer from fennel, halve the bulbs and then cut them into slices about as thick as a finger.
Place them in an oven dish (like one you use for gratins or brownies).
Mix oil, cream and spices well. Use as much spice as you like; the chili powder works surprisingly well with the fennel, but may not be to everyone's liking. Remember that parmesan (which will be added at the end of the baking time) is rather salty, so don't add too much salt to the mix.
Spoon the liquid mixture over the fennel slices, then cover the dish firmly with aluminium foil.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Take the dish out, remove the foil, and grate or shave parmesan cheese on the fennel.
Put back into the oven (without the foil) for another 10 to 15 minutes; keep checking so that the parmesan does not burn black.
Serve as a side dish with meat, pasta or whatever strikes your fancy - or as the main dish with crusty bread.
I made these "egg nests" with it, which worked well, as the nests have very different textures, colours and taste from the fennel. Also, my oven allows for two dishes baking at the same time, and it was really nice being in the comfort of my warm kitchen with the scents of food around me.
Fennel is a wonderfully versatile vegetable; you can eat it raw as a salad, fry it covered in breadcrumbs, boil it, bake it - the result is always delicious. And that's coming from me! Because here is the strange thing: I don't like the smell and taste of aniseed. In fact, I detest it, and I never drink Sambuca, Ouzo or Pastis, for exactly that reason. BUT... I really like fennel, although both its smell and taste remind one of aniseed. Weird, huh!