“I never change, I simply become more myself.”
– Joyce Carol Oates

I have a small confession to make; from that one simple cocktail of Campari and Fennel, a new love affair has come into my life: I am in love with fennel. And when I say “in love,” I mean head over heels, wildly crazy about, smitten with, and simply mad for it. I kid you not when I say that it’s better than potato chips.

I know, I know; that probably seems like an extreme statement. But if you happen to braise a few bulbs in a lemon and garlic sauce, I promise that you’ll see what I mean. I am, after all, not the kind of girl that’s prone to exaggeration. Top that off with the fact that 99.9% of the time, when I brush my teeth for the evening, eating time is over; no more food will be consumed. In this particular case, however, when I went back into the kitchen to put the leftovers in the fridge, I couldn’t resist just one more little piece…Ludicrous, I know, especially considering that I never would have pegged myself for a lover of anise.

Oh well. Such is the joy of self-discovery.

The absolute glory of my newfound love lies partly in the sheer deliciousness of the dish itself and partly in my delight at figuring out what to do with the bulk of the fennel after the fronds had served their cocktail purpose. Inspired by friends of mine who swear by the site, I did a little search on epicurious for soups with fennel and was surprisingly left uninspired. But then, given my adoration of citrus and the way my hands smell after squeezing a lemon or peeling an orange, when I came to a recipe for fennel with lemon, I knew I had found the one. Just call it love at first recipe sight. 🙂

It didn’t even matter that I was without shallots, which the recipe called for. In and of itself, fennel packs enough flavor, not to mention health benefits, which in my opinion rendered the shallots unnecessary! And I definitely didn’t stick to the suggestion of 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice or one clove of garlic. In some cases, you really can’t have too much of a good thing. This recipe just happens to be one of them. It doesn’t hurt that it’s the perfect side dish for a low-key midweek meal. I paired it with an omelet and was as happy as could be.

Braised Fennel with Lemon

Yields four servings

Adapted from the November 2005 issue of Bon Appetit, courtesy of Epicurious

For the fennel:
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 fresh fennel bulbs, each cut lengthwise into wedges

For the lemon sauce:
the juice of 1/2 of a lemon
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3 garlic cloves, minced

-Preheat oven to 400°F.
-Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over high heat.
-Add half of fennel; sauté until deep golden brown on all sides, about 6-8 minutes.
-Transfer to a large baking dish.
-Repeat with 2 more tablespoons oil and remaining fennel.
– Mix ingredients for sauce in a medium bowl.
– Whisk in 2 tablespoons oil; drizzle mixture over fennel.
-Cover dish with foil and bake for 25- 30 minutes.
-Remove foil and bake until fennel is tender (it’s best to test the fennel by seeing if a fork will easily pierce it), about 20 minutes longer.

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