During most of fennel’s long season I’m more than happy to slice it thinly and toss it with olive oil, salt and maybe some cut up lemons or oranges. That is lunch for me, at least a few times a week, for most of the winter. I love the crunch of the fennel, combined with the sour, salt and fruity taste of whatever I add to it.
But as winter turns to spring a change happens. The fennel is a bit tougher, and the strong, almost licorice, taste of the bulbs turns a bit flat. Still, I don’t give up on my beloved bulbs, I just treat them differently.
Although I sometimes just toss them in olive oil and lay them on a large roasting pan, I prefer crowding them into tighter quarters, and adding cheese to the mixture. In other words, more baking than roasting.
The result is tender fennel that still has some body, and is imbued with the richness of olive oil and whatever cheese I happen to have on hand. It’s a great side dish if you’re having meat or fish, but even on its own, with a loaf of good bread, it’s hearty enough to call dinner. And fitting goodbye to fennel season.
- 2 bulbs fennel
- 1 cup grated cheese (pecorino or parmesan)
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C
- Cut each fennel bulb in half, and take off the touch outer layer. Slice each half into a quarter and using a knife, trim away the inner root. Then slice the bulbs into ¼ inch slices through the root end.
- Put in a bowl and toss with the rest of the ingredients. Place in round pan, about 10 inches in diameter. Bake for about 45 minutes, stirring half way through.