Vegetarian Recipe: Fennel alla Parmigiana

Finocchio alla ParmigianaWithout a doubt my favorite way to prepare many vegetables is to oil braise them, in extra virgin olive oil, of course.  The method is used all over the mediterranean,  especially in Turkey where the oil itself (as well as the whole category of things braised in it) are called zeytinagli.  Vegetables braised in oil with tomatoes or herbs and aromatics like onion have a luscious, satisfying mouth feel and are deeply flavored of themselves.  They’re incredibly easy to make and are often even more delicious cold from the refrigerator the next day.  Just be sure to have some great bread on the table because you won’t want to waste any of the syrupy reduced juices.

Finocchio alla Parmigiana is an Italian classic that is often made by par boiling the fennel then topping it with tomato and parmesan for a quick pop in the oven until bubbly.  But I prefer to start off by braising the fennel.  Then the dusting of grated parmesan and oven gratinee is merely a final send off to a dish already imbued with richness and flavor.

Side Note:
These dishes are rich and satisfying because of the amount of olive oil in them.  Don’t be tempted to reduce the amount of oil.  Serve it instead of meat as the main part of the meal accompanied by a fresh crunchy salad, good bread and maybe a bit of fresh cheese like chevre or feta.  Also delicious with grilled fish.

Braised Fennel